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For Ashton Kutcher’s first marathon — and perhaps his last — there was only one choice: New York City.
Running a marathon has been a lifelong goal for Kutcher and the opportunity presented itself when Thorn, the nonprofit technology company he co-founded in 2012, became a marathon charity partner. “In my head, the running of a marathon was always in New York City,” he said in an interview days before the race.
Kutcher, an actor, recalled moving to Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan at 19. “I had a hundred dollars and my Boy Scout duffle bag and my Swiss Army Knife,” he said. “I called my dad and said, ‘I’m not coming home.’” From there, the city became “a launchpad” for his life and career.
Decades later, he is excited to see the streets lined with spectators as he joins the tens of thousands of runners for the marathon Sunday. “I think it’s grit and passion on display,” Kutcher said of the race, because “everybody’s got a cause, everybody’s got a thing.”
Speaking for himself, Kutcher has been motivated by the prospect of raising awareness to Thorn, which builds technology to help identify the sexual exploitation of children.
“As long as the internet is around, people are going to figure out how to put this material online,” he said of the company’s mission to remove it. “The more people we can get to run that race with us, the more likely we are to be successful.”
His fund-raising page has surpassed a goal of $1 million.
As his training got underway, Kutcher, who did the bulk of his running on a Peloton treadmill, called the company to propose the idea of interviewing guests during filmed workouts. Peloton agreed and, as he requested, included a link to Thorn’s fund-raising efforts at the end of each workout as Kutcher’s only compensation.
“The essential question of the Peloton runs was, ‘What’s your why?’” he said of the interviews, which included Kim Kardashian and Natalie Portman. “I think the more we can explore other people’s ‘whys,’ the more we find that maybe we have a piece of that within ourselves.”
Of his own “why,” Kutcher said, “I keep putting the faces of these kids that I’ve seen through the last 10 years of cases we’ve worked on at the other end of that [finish] line. Just knowing that I can get to them, and we can get to them, that’s pretty motivating.”
His other “why” is his own son, who will be cheering him on from the course with Kutcher’s wife, Mila Kunis, and daughter. “My son told me if I get first, second or third place that he’s going to buy me a puppy,” he said. “I don’t have the heart to tell him that there’s not a chance that I’m winning this thing, so I’m going out there to win it.”
Perhaps more realistically, Kutcher is hoping to beat his friend Sean “Diddy” Combs’s 2003 marathon time of 4:14:54, a number Kutcher has memorized. “I will be devastating that time,” he said confidently.
Will he make marathoning a habit? “As of now, absolutely not. For no other reason than the injuries are real,” he said. But knowing that his competitive spirit might motivate him to challenge his own time in another race, he said, “I’ve got a bunch of people that I’ve asked to recommend to me that I don’t do it again.”