Usually, marathon coach John Honerkamp tells his runners to rip open gooey gel packets with their teeth to get fast fuel on the course. But he felt kind of awkward suggesting this to one of his clients last year, supermodel Karlie Kloss.
“I was like, hope she doesn’t break a tooth,” Honerkamp, 43, tells The Post. “Marathoning is not glamorous.”
But, for Honerkamp, the annual 26.2-mile trot is often star-studded. Every NYC Marathon since 2011, he’s run alongside a celebrity as a personal pacer, helping them manage their energy throughout. He charges anywhere from $200 for email coaching to as much as $15,000 for rigorous in-person training leading up to, and during, the race.
“My friends are like, ‘Tough life, you have to run with a supermodel,’ ” says Honerkamp. “But you still have to run [three-plus] hours.”
His first celebrity run-in was with Olympic speedskating gold medalist and “Dancing With the Stars” champion Apolo Ohno at the 2011 race. At the time, Honerkamp, a former pro middle-distance runner, was developing virtual training programs for the New York Road Runners, which hosts the NYC Marathon. But after concerns were raised that Ohno might need some extra help, Honerkamp was asked to step in.
The two only met the day before the race, but, with Honerkamp pacing him, Ohno ran the course in an impressive 3 hours 25 minutes. The Olympian “looked like a million bucks” at the finish line, but Honerkamp was howling in pain from a blister he’d had since Mile 3.
“I couldn’t walk for weeks,” says Honerkamp, who went on to run with another Olympian, TV host and gold-medal swimmer Summer Sanders, in 2013.
Sometimes, the celebs he’s working with are facing adversity both on and off the course.
In 2014, he ran with tennis player Caroline Wozniacki — just months after her fiancé, golfer Rory McIlroy, publicly dumped her.
“I did not bring it up at all, [but] there was definitely people on the sidelines … that maybe said a couple things that weren’t too pleasant about Rory,” says Honerkamp.
At least he was able to boost her morale on the course. When Wozniacki struggled toward the end of the race, Honerkamp tried to keep her going with tennis metaphors, telling her, “This is the third set, 6-6 against Sharapova.” It seemed to work: She finished in 3:26, with Serena Williams waiting for her at the finish line.
He also trained tennis player James Blake for 2015’s marathon, the same year the tennis pro was tackled by an NYPD officer in a mistaken arrest.
For the most part, Honerkamp says, celebrity marathoners face the usual challenges — with some exceptions. He recalls a camera crew following him and Wozniacki over the last 11 miles, so they always had to be conscious of looking OK — no nose picking — and he had to caution her not to exhaust herself greeting the crowds. With Kloss, he was running with a group of about six people that included her security, friends and colleagues. Kloss’ strategy had her alternating five minutes of running with one minute of walking, and Honerkamp had to play traffic cop.
“She would stop [running], all six people would stop and then I’d have to manage [them],” says Honerkamp, who isn’t training supermodels or former Olympians this year but has been working with “Night School” actress Megalyn Echikunwoke, some local chefs and several runners featured in a New Balance ad campaign.
The toughest task, he says, is celebs’ availability. That was especially the case with Kloss, whom he coached for months leading up to the big race.
His advice to her, and any busy New Yorker? “Run when you can.”
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