On Sunday, May 31, business owner Harold Laudien will be completing a month-long running challenge in support of the Hope is in Hamilton initiative.

In total, Laudien will have run 500 miles in May—running each day the number of miles that correspond with the day of the month.

The running challenge that started on May 1 with a one-mile run, now has had him running a marathon a day since May 26.

“It’s almost insurmountable for any runner,” Laudien said. “It’s a very, very deep ask of your body to go through something like this.”

A final 31-mile run on Sunday will mark the conclusion of this strenuous task and help to bring one last bit of awareness to #HopeIsInHamilton, a month-long community initiative to promote hope and inspiration during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Harold Laudien
Harold Laudien stops along his daily runs to take selfies in front of Shop Hamilton businesses.

Laudien has been a runner for nearly 10 years but took to more serious feats over the past five.

Switching between triathlons and long-distance running, he seeks out ways to push his limits. He has participated in three-day triathlons across Florida, totaling 300 miles. Last October, he ran from the Delaware River to Belmar—roughly a 53-mile journey—in support of a nonprofit.

More recently, in mid-April, Laudien ran 81 miles in 16 hours around Central Jersey.

For about the past three years he has worked to incorporate charities and nonprofits in his participating events.

This all started when a dear friend and previous business partner was diagnosed with an incurable disease, pulmonary hypertension.

His first charitable run was in support of Team PHenomenal Hope, a nonprofit that raises awareness for the rare medical condition that changed his friend’s life forever.

Along with charity, Laudien is an active member of the community.

He has a long-standing connection with the Mercer County area, as he graduated from Rider University in 2003 and proceeded to move to Hamilton after graduation and start a business.

He is the CEO of Mercer Wealth Management, located at 2312 Whitehorse Mercerville Road, which is celebrating its 10-year anniversary.

“I purposely started the business in Hamilton because I loved the township,” Laudien said.

Upon opening a local business, he became involved with the Hamilton Township Economic Development Advisory Commission and has served as chairman in the past.

He is active with the Shop Hamilton business group, and was the chairman of the Mercer/Bucks Alumni Chapter and past alumni board member at Rider University. He is a former member of the RWJ University Hospital Hamilton’s Young Professionals Group.

Laudien continues to find ways to mold his passion for running into helping bigger causes, while incorporating his town involvements.

At the onset of the global health crisis, Laudien reached out to Shop Hamilton to pitch the idea of tying his runs to its Hope is in Hamilton initiative.

“The hope is that people understand that they can make it through challenging times,” he said.

With his business a member of Shop Hamilton and having a connection to RWJUH Hamilton, Laudien saw an opportunity to achieve the mutual goal of Hope is in Hamilton.

“I wasn’t surprised,” chairwoman of Shop Hamilton Joyce Cantalice said. “It was great to get the call and to see how he was connecting the dots on a meaningful level for himself in his life because it goes far beyond that. We’re not just running our businesses, we’re part of the community.”

The Hope is in Hamilton initiative was launched by RWJUH Hamilton in partnership with Shop Hamilton, the Hamilton Township municipal government and Hamilton Township School District. For the month of May, the RWJUH Hamilton and Shop Hamilton business’ social media pages were encouraged to share uplifting and inspirational messages of hope paired with the hashtag #HopeIsInHamilton. Lavender ribbons, lights, decorations and Hope is in Hamilton signs, symbolizing hope, are seen around Hamilton Township. The Hamilton Post even changed its logo lavender for the month.

Shop Hamilton business locations, fire houses in town, the municipal building and the RWJUH Hamilton Cancer Center are all sporting lavender decorations. The lavender ribbon is a symbol of universal cancer awareness, which was the initial intent behind Hope Is In Hamilton since May is National Cancer Research Month.

Although originally designed as a cancer awareness campaign, in promotion of the RWJUH Hamilton Cancer Center, the initiative was quickly refocused to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was converted into a social media campaign to kind of lift the hopes, spirits and minds of people inside the township, residents and business owners alike,” Laudien said.

Throughout his daily runs, Laudien has been stopping at local Shop Hamilton businesses and taking selfies with a GEICO stuffed gecko that’s wearing a Hope is in Hamilton T-shirt.

Hope is in Hamilton, GEICO gecko
Stuffed geckos wearing a Hope is in Hamilton T-shirt will be handed out during Harold Laudien’s final, 31-mile run.

Laudien organized his final route on Sunday with the help of RWJUH Hamilton vice president for Health Promotion Diane Grillo, GEICO local agency owner Christopher Cline and Shop Hamilton’s Cantalice.

“Harold has an understanding that our greatest rewards in life come from when we’re giving and I think he just is an example of that,” Cantalice said.

The route has been posted to the RWJUH Hamilton Facebook page, which lays out his approximate timing and location so that people may step outside to take part in Laudien’s challenge and cheer him on from a safe distance.

The plan has Laudien starting at 6 a.m., running around Hamilton and finishing at the RWJUH Hamilton Cancer Center, at 2575 Klockner Road, around 11 a.m.

A GEICO van is planned to follow him at the end of his run and will be handing out free, individually wrapped stuffed geckos with the Hope is in Hamilton T-shirt.

“The gravity of the challenge is supposed to be felt,” Laudien said. “I think people understand that just running six or seven marathons in a row and adding a mile to it every day at the end of the month when you’re doing this is crippling. It’s not easy for me just because I run a lot. I’m purposely challenging myself to push my limits and show people we can accomplish more than we think that we can and we still need to keep that positive attitude even while we’re going through the situation that we’re in right now.”