2021 03 Sreeni Nair 1

Ewing resident Sreeni Nair takes a break on a recent run. Nair is frequently spotted running on the roads of Hopewell Valley. (Photo courtesy of FoHVOS.)

{This story has been updated to add the name of the Naked Running Man Fan Club Facebook page founder, Kelly Kolbjornsen.}

If you drive around Ewing or Hopewell Valley during the day, there is a good chance that you have spotted a scantily clad gentleman running through town. Residents have affectionately dubbed him “Naked Running Man” and excitedly share running man sightings on social media.

Sreeni Nair, AKA the Naked Running Man, is a Ewing resident who has a strong affinity for both Ewing and Hopewell Valley.

When his social media fans and founder Kelly Kolbjornsen formed a Facebook group, Naked Running Man Fan Club, they made T-shirts and asked Nair to select a nonprofit with whom to share the proceeds. Nair picked two: Ewing-based Homefront and Hopewell-based Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space. To date, the group has raised more than $3,000 for his chosen organizations.

Nair, 52, has long been an advocate for healthy living throughout Mercer County. He’s been spotted in locations from East Brunswick to Trenton, and has tried to use the attention he’s given to promote exercise, conservation, and getting outdoors. His photo for the FoHVOS Arbor Day campaign #HVHUGATREE was wildly popular and is the cover for the running man fan page.

Nair had planned to do a major promotion with FoHVOS for Pennington Day before it was canceled due to pandemic restrictions. In addition to supporting HomeFront and FoHVOS, Nair is a regular volunteer with the Lawrence Hopewell Trail. He is also involved with the recently formed Mercer County Outdoor Equity Alliance, which seeks to attract and inspire people of all ages, ethnicities, and income levels to enjoy nature and the outdoors.

Born in India, Nair moved to the United States in 1998. Today he works for a major bank with a campus in Hopewell. The Naked Running Man is a local celebrity and admired by folks young and old. We caught up with him to learn a little more.

Community News: Let’s start with the question on everyone’s mind. They call you Naked Running Man because we usually see you in only running shoes, shorts and a hat or bandana… first, do you mind the nickname? Next, why don’t you wear more clothes?

Nair: I like Naked Running Man. It’s funny. Next, that is a more difficult question. I used to run like every other person out there running in the cold, with a base layer, middle layer, and top layer of clothes.

But at some point, I went running wearing just a singlet, and I felt less cold on that day for some reason. Running and clothes really don’t go well because clothes cause chafing. I found that whether I wear clothes or not does not have any negative effect in my winter running, and in fact I felt much better when running in just shorts. I told my kids that the less clothes you wear, the less cold you feel, but they refuse to believe it, even though I demonstrated it by example.

Another reason to eschew clothes is the convenience of simplicity/minimality. Ask any runner who wears layers on how much time they spend on deciding what to wear each morning, looking at multiple weather apps etc. Also, it’s environmentally friendly, just going by the sheer size of laundry. Naked is the new green.

CN: Don’t you get cold?

Nair: It depends on the definition of cold. My preferred temperature — when I feel that I can run forever — is probably 30 down to 20 degrees. Below 20, things get interesting — in that range, I prefer to cover my ears with a beanie, and sometimes I wear gloves.

Below 10, I wear SmartWool socks, and mitts. Below zero, I have never tried — I usually run alone, and I felt that is a risk that I may not want to take. By the way, these are all real temperatures. The wind chill range is probably lower. One thing about wind chill is that there are periods when there is a break in the wind, and then the body warms up.

So, the short answer is, I start getting cold below about 15, and get really cold as it gets closer to zero, but not unrunnably so.

CN: When did you start running?

Nair: I was cleaning out my room the other day, and I found an old journal that I had used for logging my first runs. My inspiration to start running came from a book from the local library that detailed a 13-week plan to do a 10K. It started out with all walking, and then the plan gradually moved to running, et cetera. But I digress. To answer, the exact date was June 13, 2011.

CN: You started in your 40’s? I am even more impressed. How often do you run?

Nair: I try to run five, six days a week. I feel a little grumpy on the days that I don’t run, so that is a powerful motivation. But there is no hard and fast rule. If I don’t feel like running on a day, I don’t go. I don’t have a set routine, or set distances or anything of that sort.

CN: How far do you usually go?

Nair: I like to do 10 miles if it’s possible. But on most days, I have early morning work calls or other engagements, so I try to run whatever I can. Also, I prefer loop routes rather than out and back ones to avoid seeing the same sights twice. So that also dictates how long I run.

CN: Where do you like to run? Do you have favorite routes?

Nair: I start most of my runs from Ewing. Even though I am in Ewing, my place is really close to Hopewell Township. I love the varied scenery that the Hopewell routes provide. When running in the Valley, I frequently do a quick trail running leg at one of the preserves/trails such as, Heritage Preserve, Woolsey Park, Jacob’s Creek, Curlis Lake Woods, LHT, or Washington Crossing State Park.

Also, I have to say, since I have been running these routes for about three years now, there are lots of motorists who ‘know’ me. I probably couldn’t identify them in person, but I recognize people in certain cars and trucks, and their waving and honking is definitely something that boosts my energy and makes me happy.

CN: Before the fan page was created, the Facebook group Hopewell Pennington Update regularly shared NRM sightings and those posted always got hundreds of likes. How do you feel when you see that?

Nair: To be honest, I am not on Facebook very much, so I usually see the notifications and tags only much later. First, I feel really amused that people enjoy seeing me run. Secondly, I feel humbled and motivated when I read people’s comments that seeing me running made their day, or made them go out and do something.

Obviously, I do like to run, and it’s fun to dress up in something appropriate for holidays like Halloween, Christmas, and St Patrick’s Day. Elementary and middle-school kids in Hopewell Valley are my biggest fans. My Halloween costumes are strictly for them!

CN: While kids may be fans, you might be underestimating the rest of your fan base. You have serious fans of all ages. It might be a reach, but I think in times of Covid, people are actively looking for reasons to be inspired and happy.

Nair: That’s definitely right. People aren’t staying as busy due to the pandemic, so they may pay more attention to things they may have not otherwise. That’s great because if people feel happy or inspired from me, then I maybe I can make a stronger impact.

CN: Well you are certainly being noticed.

Nair: I’ve definitely gotten much more attention in the last year. I hope to channel that in beneficial ways. In addition to my lack of clothing, the fact that I am an Indian-American person of color may also cause me to stand out more in Hopewell Valley. I know it’s not the main reason for the fanfare, but since people tend to view me positively, it adds a bit more unity and good energy out in our local universe.

Lisa Wolff is the executive director of Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space. Email: lwolff@fohvos.org.

Lisa Wolff is the executive director of Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space. Email: lwolff@fohvos.org.