It’s 6:45pm on Sunday, the end of Independence Day weekend, and dozens of girls are hovering around Tavern on the Green in Central Park. Word has spread that The Bachelorette’s Tyler Cameron is doing another one of his weekly runs at 7pm, and that word has spread fast. When he arrives, it’s like a moth to a flame as the girls - and two guys - are drawn towards him, flocking one by one, cellphones up, following him to the top of the hill he stands on. Cameron may share The Bachelorette’s Hannah Brown with other men vying for her attention — and rose — on the hit reality TV show, but here in Central Park, he is the one being courted on this massive group date in the heart of New York City.
After a quick pep talk from Cameron, in which he tells the group that he’s impressed and amazed that they are there — “on a Sunday, on a holiday weekend” — and a few words of inspiration from coach Jes Woods, the group is off. As they all trail after him, it’s quite the sight to see: about a hundred girls chasing — er, running with — Cameron down a path. To those watching from the benches of the park, it may seem like nothing more than a modern-day, reality-TV take on a Beatles-like phenomenon. But talk to any of the girls gathered for the run and you’ll find that while they come for Cameron’s good looks and good nature, it’s the community he’s creating that keeps them coming back.
“I’ve always wanted to learn how to like running,” says 25-year-old Alexis Cuero. “Because I feel like it’s kinda hard to jump into it. When you do it by yourself, it’s a lot harder.” She moved to New York from San Diego and finds the runs that Cameron hosts a good way to meet others. Like Cuero, many of the young women are new to New York, students at college or in between college or visiting for summer break. “It keeps us accountable,” says Aala Nasir, 19. “It’s hard to get up and run by yourself, as I’ve tried multiple times. This is the perfect opportunity. I’ve loved it ever since coming for the first one.”
Cameron’s runs bring attention to ABC Food Tours, the charity organization his friend Matt James created to help create inspiring and educational experiences for youngsters in underserved communities. At the same time, they’re also helping budding runners. Cameron has the aim that by the end of the summer, they’ll all run a 5K together. Each run progresses from a mile. While many of the young women say they haven’t run a race before, they say they're willing to do so for Cameron. “He’s quite the charmer,” says 19-year-old Desu Imudia. “I follow The Bachelorette TV show but it’s cool to come here because it’s for a really good cause, and there’s an actual trainer on board. Running one km every week is way better than not running at all.”
The runs are also helping those who have been lukewarm on their running. “I’ve trained for a 5K before, years ago, but I’m using this as my excuse to get back into the swing of it,” says Liz Hund, 21. “[Tyler’s] really cute, so I figured why not take advantage of the motivation. He’s so nice and genuine and personable,” she adds. After every run, he stays to take selfies — but only after the workout.
“Look, I’m not trying to date the guy,” says new runner Catherine Alvarez-McCurdy, 25Alvarez-McCurdy, who also needed extra incentive. “Something else has to motivate me and this gets us out. I see him on TV, I see him here, and it’s nice to know that it all works out for him, that he’s happy. I was just looking for that one actual push to get me out the house. I have a lot of friends who watch the show, and it seemed like an interesting experience that I wouldn’t have otherwise. And that was enough to make me excited about exercising.”
This is the kind of thing Cameron likes to hear about. He spends the runs talking to the women, about yoga and about where they go to school and answering questions like, is he scared of horses? The 26-year-old general contractor and model got back into running, after being a star college football player, when he moved to New York. “It became a way for me to escape a lot of things,” he says. “Running gets my mind off a lot of pressures - with my family, with the crazy stuff on the show, just life. It’s my escape,” he says.
Even though he likes the release it gives him, the 6-foot-2-inch Florida native still finds running to be hard at times. “It can be a pain. I’ve been a sprinter — I played football — my whole life, but I always feared running a mile.” He remembers his coaches in high-school would require him to run a sub-7 minute mile, to make the team, which he would struggle with. “I’ve never been a good runner but I’m learning. I’m learning to love the sport. It’s been awesome,” he says.
As he’s learning, so too, are the women who attend his runs. After the run, some of them swarm Woods, a NYC-based running coach who linked up with Cameron after a friend told her she spotted him on his first group run in Central Park. A fan of the show, Woods reached out to Cameron to offer to help him. “Yes, he is objectively good looking,” she says. “But I thought it was super cool seeing how many women he was bringing out to a run just to see him who would have never run otherwise. I am a huge fan of anyone who inspires new runners to run.” She has helped build the 5K programme the group is following. “Of course you’re going to have some folks who show up just to see Tyler and have zero interest in running,” she says. "So that’s why it is my goal to help everyone fall in love with the sport as well. And even if we inspire just five people to consistently train for this 5K, those five people are going to inspire five more people and now we’re on to something that’s really impactful.”
Cameron has seen for himself how much of an impact running can make. Two months before he was meant to be on The Bachelorette, his dad was hospitalized and went into a coma. “When he came back home from the hospital I thought I would take it upon myself to get my mom, my brothers, my family members, friends, all out to start running together. It was only about 7 people, but it was still about accountability.” Cameron’s dad is doing better but he says it’s still a day-by-day fight. “Part of his problem, why he got sick, has a lot to do with mental wellness,” says Cameron. “He felt really alone. That’s why I share my story, and his story, so that people coming to the runs know they’re not alone. You're never alone. There’s always someone there. You just have to reach out. Running with a group —running with someone — helps.”
Cameron has been using his platform — and his almost 1-million-strong social media following — to share this message. “So many people have told us their stories — how they run for their dad or girls will meet up together and go for a run afterwards. It’s got people moving. If I can get people together moving, getting better together, that’s what it’s all about.”
In keeping with his ethos of getting better, Cameron has decided to run the Chicago Marathon, his first ever 26.2. “I’ve got the best team behind me, with Jes and Matt and this group of runners,” he says.
So does that mean the women will continue to follow his lead, and perhaps shoot for marathons of their own? “If he guarantees he’ll be here ’til the marathon is run, I would keep doing this,” says Leigh Ryffel, 25. “I see no reason to stop. It’s fun and it’s progressively harder but not in giant leaps and bounds. We could run as far as we want!”