Kevin Hart stood outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art Saturday, preparing for what he had earlier tweeted would be a “Rocky moment.”
“You are looking at a true Philadelphian,” he told the crowd who had come out on the sunny morning for the first Run With Hart five-kilometer race he has led in the city. “I bleed Philadelphia.”
Hart’s sharp use of social media to reach fans directly (he has 21.2 million Twitter followers) has made him into one of today’s most successful comedians. That success will be apparent on Sunday, when he performs for a sell-out crowd of 53,000 at Lincoln Financial Field.
Now with the 5K races, sponsored and organized by Nike, he is bringing himself even closer to his fans, or at least the ones who can match his pace.
“Being reachable, being able to show that you’re authentic, that’s a major deal for people,” he said in an interview before the race. “The day you lose that connection is the day you lose your fan base.”
The Philadelphia 5K, which followed events in seven other cities including New York, Washington and Houston, drew the most runners yet — 2,500, according to Nike — aided no doubt by home-town pride in the 36-year-old North Philadelphia native.
When the race started at 8:04 a.m., Hart and a Nike-clad entourage of running partners — including fellow comedian and Real Husbands of Hollywood co-star J.B. Smoove — surged onto the race route, soon to be joined by the other runners.
Among them was Renee Jenkins, a 47-year-old Philadelphia native who now lives in Ewing, N.J.
“It shows that he’s down to earth,” she said of Hart’s willingness to run with his fans, as she waited in line to begin the race. “He’s still in touch with the people.”
Bernard Greene, 38, said he was joining the race partly out of pride in the successful comedian’s local roots.
“I come out for other 5Ks,” he said. “Why not do it with a guy who’s from Philly?”
Nike spokeswoman Joy Davis Fair said Hart’s high-profile amateur athleticism has given the company a rare opportunity to partner with someone other than a professional sportsman.
Hart said he is working with the company because they share a mission of bringing fitness to the masses.
“Together we’re trying to bridge the gap between the professional athlete and that average person that hasn’t adapted to sports,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, you should be able to be the best version of yourself possible.”
Twenty-one minutes and 51 seconds after leaving the starting line, Hart’s Rocky moment had arrived.
Preceded by a few dozen faster racers, he and his clutch of running pals and security staffers bounded up the Art Museum steps to cross the finish line, about mid-way up the stairs.
Hart had apparently pushed himself hard on the run: after making his way into cordoned-off area protected by police and security staff, he collapsed onto a Nike Running Club towel that had been spread for him on the cement.
He remained there for several minutes, head down, panting on his hands and knees. But after catching his breath, he took a spot on the steps before the finish line, where he began high-fiving runners as they completed the race.
He had earlier promised to stay there until all the morning’s runners had finished.
“It was cool,” Brian Oglesby, a 44-year-old economic development consultant from Philadelphia, said of the chance to slap hands with the star. “He’s a local guy.”
by Jacob Adelman from The Philadelphia Inquirer
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