Sunday, November 1, 2015

NYC Marathon Weekend Part 1: I ran with Kevin Hart (and yes, I got to meet him!)

Me before the Run With Hart 5K
Since the New York City Marathon is today, there were a lot of events this weekend surrounding this race. So since I am a runner, please indulge me in writing about them! (Hey, this Yankee fan has to have something to talk about these days, other than being a good sport about the Mets!) Here is my first post of three. It's about my fantastic experience of running with Kevin Hart and the Nike+ Running Club in Hudson River Park on Friday morning. 

Kevin Hart is my favorite comedian these days. Not just because he is hilarious, but because of his life story. His wasn't an overnight success story; he worked many, many years before he finally broke through to fame. Plus, his humor is so self-deprecating -- about him being 5 feet 4, about his upbringing, etc. And as my own humor is self-deprecating, I can relate. Hart also works harder than anybody else out there. He's known for this quote: "Everybody wants to be famous but nobody wants to do the work." Good role model in so many ways.

Run With Hart

Anyhow, Squawker Jon heard something Thursday about how Hart was hosting a free 5K run in Manhattan this Friday, so as soon as I heard about it, I knew I had to sign up and participate! Hart recently started running. Earlier this summer, he wrote on Twitter where he was going to run in Boston before a show, and thousands showed up to run with him. Since then, he has gotten really passionate about running, going from a 27 minute 5K to a 20+ minute 5K. And he wants to get people off the couch and kickstart their own fitness. So he teamed with the Nike+ Running Club to put on these Run With Hart 5Ks around the country, to get people of all fitness levels out there. 

A selfie before the race starts.
Hart wasn't even doing a show in NYC in connection with this run. Instead, he did a show Thursday night in Bakersfield, CA, flew out after the show to be at the run at Pier 26 in Manhattan at 7:34 a.m. Friday morning, then flew back after the show to Reno, NV. Now that's dedication. 

And his race was fabulous. I have done over 60 races in the last two years, and I would put this Run With Hart 5K among the top three race experiences I have ever had. First of all, there was great swag and grub -- especially impressive, given that the race was free! They had free Nike "Run With Hart" t-shirts, workout towels, and rubber bracelets for everyone. There was plenty of not just water, Gatorade, and bananas, but a wide variety of Kind Bars (my favorite!) as well. Oh, and there were even free Waffle and Dinges waffles for everyone after the race. A free and easy bag check system. And the people working there were so nice. The whole experience made me feel like a VIP. 

This is one of the photos Nike took of people
in the race. It happens to feature
yours truly in the middle.
As for the race itself, people from the Nike+ Running Club served as pacers/guides for the rest of us. One of the things I have never understood about the way I've seen pacers used in big races is that they only have them for a certain speed of people. For example, in New York Road Runners' half-marathons, the pacers only go up to pace a two hours and 30 minute time, even though those of us who are running slower than that could arguably use the services of a pacer even more than the faster people. Anyhow, at Hart's race, they had pacers throughout all levels of speeds in the race, with them exhorting everyone and cheering them on. I've never actually gotten to feel such positive treatment in a race before, so it was pretty awesome.

Best finish line experience ever!

After the race. My glasses get fogged
up when I run!
There was a stage at the event, and before the race, fitness experts took us through a warmup. Also, some running celebs were onstage, like Joan Benoit Samuelson. Hart was the last to speak before the race, talking about how he wanted to inspire people to improve their fitness. He then led the run. I run a lot in Hudson River Park, so I was familiar with the path, down towards Battery Park City by the Hudson River, and then back up to TriBeCa. 

What was new to me was the support line at the end. I finished in 38 minutes -- a very good time for me. When I was getting towards the end, the pacers were encouraging me. And at the last part of the race, there was a long line of Nike+ Running Club people and others on each side cheering the rest of the runners on. I got high fives from both sides. It was terrific! After the race, Hart himself gave me a high five and congratulated me. I was so excited to see him, I was a little starstruck! It was the greatest finish line experience I have ever had.

There were what seemed to be a good number of people behind me after I finished, which isn't always the case. It seemed like a lot of people who would normally not do a 5K were out there because of Kevin Hart, and they were running or walking or plodding their way across the finish line. And Hart stayed around to give high fives and encouragement to every last person.

I don't mean to sound like a total fangirl, but I can't tell you how cool it is to see a celebrity parlay his fame to help and inspire people like me. I recently wrote about some negative experiences I had when running. So when I see such a top-of-the-line operation, which was such a positive experience, I have to tip my Yankee hat and thank Hart and the Nike+ Running Club for putting on such a terrific event. I'd like to think that some of the people who went to this event will get inspired to get out there and run because of how much fun this race was. That would be wonderful to see. In this country, where so many people are obese and out of shape, doing events like the Run With Hart 5K can only help get others like I once was as off the couch and into a new life.

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