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