Former rapper has run the ING New York City Marathon every year since 1994.
Jesse Itzler has transitioned from his role as the early 1990s rapper known as Jesse Jaymes, who wrote songs like “Shake It (Like a White Girl),” to being the co-founder of Marquis Jet, a company that sells flight time on private jets. After Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway group bought his company in 2010, Itzler began brand consulting for companies such as Zico coconut water and Sheets energy strips.
We caught up with the 44-year-old entrepreneur/philanthropist in Atlanta and talked about all things running.
When did you begin running?
In 1992, right after I graduated from college. I’ve only missed a handful of days since. I liked running right away, liked the way it made me feel. I escalated from 20 minutes a day to 32 a day to 40 to … I kept going up and up and up.
What’s your favorite race?
Still of all the races, I like the New York City Marathon because it was [in] my backyard for so long. I’ve done it every year since 1994 — 18 times.
How do you fit running into your schedule?
It’s a lifestyle for me, part of my routine. I’m creature of habit. I knock it out first thing in the morning; then the rest of the day is gravy.
Do you ever listen to music while you run?
Never. I’ve run 350 days a year for 20-plus years, and never once have I listened to music. It’s a time for me to think, listen to natural sounds, be outside. To me, music is what you listen to on an airplane or in the car.
What do you think about when you run?
Running is my meditation. People say when they mediate they go to a place of emptiness. Running has become so therapeutic for me, because I block out all thoughts, or get really crystal clear business ideas. Every run is different. Sometimes topics pop into my head, sometimes I don’t think about anything.
Why did you hire a Navy SEAL to live with you?
This was before Navy SEALs were ‘in.’ I had one come live with me for 30 days to train me, not just physically, but mentally. It was like Rambo meets the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Like having a gladiator in your house. It was a little overkill, but I got in ridiculous shape.
What is the 100 Mile Man Foundation?
It started with my 100-mile run in 2006 and has turned into a platform to raise money with a different 100-mile event every year. If I’m going to raise money, I want to stand out; I don’t want to just have another charity dinner. Our Pedal in the Park event had people working out on 100 spin bikes in Central Park. Next year I want to do a bike ride to Manhattan with 100 executives.
What do you eat before a race?
On marathon day, in the morning I eat a banana with some honey. The night before, I eat a lot of raw vegetables and occasionally pizza. I’ve had Patsy’s Pizza the night before every New York City marathon.
This piece first appeared in the February 2013 issue of Competitor magazine.