About 2,000 runners ran in the inaugural race in Omaha, Neb. (Robyn Murray/Only A Game)

About 2,000 shareholders ran in a 5K at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting on May 5 in Omaha, Neb. (Robyn Murray/Only A Game)

“OK, the command will be ‘runners set’ and then I’ll fire the gun! Runners set!”

Warren Buffett stood on a platform in front of about 2,000 runners in downtown Omaha, Neb., last Sunday. Dressed in black runner’s gear, Buffett, who will turn 83 this year, warmed up the crowd with a couple jokes, some dance moves and a bit of jogging in place.

“I’d like to be out there running with you,” he said with a laugh. “Next year I’ll be ready for you. I’m not quite tuned up yet, but I’ve got my shoes on. I’m ready to go.”

A Different Kind Of Investment

I’m just hoping to get a high-five from Warren Buffett at the finish line. That’s my motivation.
– Maggie Matson, Berkshire Hathaway shareholder and 5K runner
Buffett’s “Invest in Yourself 5K” was the first event of any athletic kind at this annual weekend that’s typically filled with financial advice, and indulgence in Nebraska’s famous steaks, and Dairy Queen soft serve. Dairy Queen is a subsidiary – along with dozens of other companies – of Buffett’s massive investing firm Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett’s investing success has made him one of the richest men in the world and a sought-after financial whiz whose shareholders, followers, and fans eat up his words like oreo blizzards.

“They do,” said John Correia, an organizer with Brooks Sports – another subsidiary of Berkshire and sponsor of the 5K. “You know, he tweeted the first time [just] yesterday or the day before and he got something like 150,000 followers in the first hour or some crazy number.”

The day before the race, Correia handed out bibs and bags of goodies to shareholders who had registered to run.

Among the runners was Carol Williams of Bellevue, a neighboring city of Omaha.

“I’m happy to see somebody that everybody looks up to encourage exercise because it can make such a difference,” Williams said.

Williams said she started running last year and she can already feel the improvement in her health. And she said she’s happy to be taking advice from somebody like Buffett.

“He’s got a lot wisdom,” she said. “I mean look at where he is. If I could just find some of his secrets, I’d be a lot better off than I am today.”

A Few Extra Calories

Warren Buffett shook hands with shareholders and fans after firing the starter's pistol at the "Invest in Yourself" 5K race. (Robyn Murray/Only A Game)

Warren Buffett shook hands with shareholders and fans after firing the starter’s pistol at the “Invest in Yourself” 5K race. (Robyn Murray/Only A Game)

Some of those secrets might seem to conflict with a healthy lifestyle. Buffett spent some time on Saturday with his partner Charlie Munger chatting with shareholders and snacking on a couple of his favorite treats – and, as it happens, his favorite investments: See’s Candies and Coca-Cola. But that didn’t deter Maggie Matson, who traveled to Omaha from Minneapolis for the meeting and the race.

“Obviously he’s very successful,” Matson said. “He’s come this far, and even snacking on peanut brittle and drinking Diet Cokes, he’s really plugging along. I love reading his words of wisdom about investing financial, big picture, women in business. I really love reading about that, but I think it means something else to say, you know, look at your health, look at everything else that’s happening outside just the financial health.”

Matt Larson, who traveled with her, agreed.

“We think about investing as a financial habit and to do it wisely, and that helps us take care of ourselves in other ways,” Larson said. “But part of a healthy lifestyle, it’s the same principles as financial investing. Eating healthy and exercising. Hopefully we all get to be Warren and Charlie’s ages someday. It’s something we’d like to do anyway, but it’s really cool to be able to do it here and with that banner.”

“I’m just hoping to get a high-five from Warren Buffett at the finish line,” Matson said. “That’s my motivation.”

“A high-five. That wasn’t my idea. But I like that,” Larson said. “Now I’m dreaming about it.”

The next day, Buffett did hand out some high-fives as the runners hit the road. He also waited at the finish line to award crystal trophies and pose for photographs with the winners.

“Thanks all for coming,” he said. “This is just the start. We’ll be doing this for decades to come and I’ll be here every time.”

After the race, shareholders headed to Borsheims — a luxury jewelry store and subsidiary — for brunch. On the menu a light, healthy meal of fruit and quiche and a heavy dose of salesmanship. Buffett himself manned the store, handing out discounts and selling millions of dollars in diamonds and jewels in just a couple of hours.