I went for a run Friday morning with Deena Kastor and Ryan Hall.
OK, truth be told, I STARTED a run with the Olympic marathoners Kastor and Hall.
Even their idea of a pre-ING New York City Marathon fun run left me in the dust pretty quickly -- and Kastor is six months pregnant. But, hey, I bet they can't write a news story.
Although neither is running the race this year, Kastor and Hall were in town for their sponsor, Asics, to sign autographs and provide advice and insight to the 40,000-plus athletes planning to run Sunday's race. She was at the Asics store on 42nd Street across from Bryant Park later Friday, and they'll both be at the marathon expo at the Jacob K. Javits Center on Saturday.
Kastor was actually planning to participate this year, but had to bail after she found out she was having her first child, a girl expected in February. And Hall, who came in fourth last year, decided to sit this one out. Nevertheless, he shared his experience from 2009 and how he nearly dropped out with 10 miles to go because he was having an "off day" and was bothered by a hip injury. But he persevered and just missed a podium finish by a few seconds.
Both athletes are personable and friendly, good brand ambassadors for Asics. At the run Friday morning in Central Park, they were joined by sprinter Lolo Jones, who said she hopes to run a marathon when her sprinting career is over. She was furiously taking notes on her BlackBerry when Kastor, her husband, coach Andrew Kastor, and Hall spoke.
"These are all good tips," she said.
The fun run Friday was just one of several Asics promotions surrounding the race. For the past month, the activewear brand has been running a print and outdoor ad campaign -- "Running New York releases more than just sweat" -- on taxi tops and double-decker buses all over the city. There is an interactive video in Times Square for the participants, and special co-branded licensed marathon merchandise at the expo, available exclusively at the 26,600-square-foot retail shop there and at select sports stores around the city.
"Our goal was to take over New York City in a big, bold way so people know we are the official sponsor," said Gary Slayton, vice president of marketing for Asics America.