Nekita Hunter retired as a Major after serving for 25 years in the Army.

Nekita Hunter, AKA “Niki,” often gets a question on race days, especially once she hits the finish line. “You’re HOW old?” You would never guess that the Army Veteran is 51 years old, but with a training schedule like hers, which includes an average of 125-150 miles on the bike and 30-50 miles of running a week, physical and mental results follow.

“If you put in the work, it’ll pay off,” Niki says. The motto has been a theme throughout Niki’s life. “All my high school friends, when they found I joined the army, they’re like the Army, “Miss Cheerleader,” she says with a smile and air quotes. “When I retired, they’re like, ‘okay!”

Niki finished the Marine Corps Marathon with a time of 3:47:01 to qualify for the Boston Marathon

The Army veteran, who served for 25 years, thrives off words like “you can’t.” Throughout her life, she has faced a ton of adversity, like fracturing her hip in a car wreck in 2004, which meant she couldn’t run for the last five years of her military career.

When she returned from Iraq, her psychiatrist introduced her to cycling, which was great for her health, but to cycle, her doctor suggested she scale back her medications. It was a perfect storm when safety became a concern for Niki living in Miami. She stopped cycling, didn’t like running alone, and then COVID hit. By August 2021, the mix of medication changes plus slowing down physical activity was a recipe for serious weight gain. She went to the doctor, who told her she had gained so much that she was prediabetic and hypertensive. She took that diagnosis as a challenge, telling her doctor, “The next time you see me [in six months], I’m going to be down to my military weight.”

Niki hit the road and started training, and in January, she returned to her doctor’s office after dropping 25 pounds. “She couldn’t believe it. I was no longer prediabetic. She didn’t believe my labs,” Niki says. Nine months later, she crossed the finish line at the Marine Corps Marathon in D.C. with a time of 3 hours, 47 minutes, and one second, qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

When I got to run across the finish line, it was a feeling of accomplishment. I was in total disbelief that I qualified for Boston, Niki says

Niki will be running four major marathons this year, one in each city: Boston, Chicago, Berlin, and New York. Her motivation comes from within, but it helps to get that extra push from her new Team HOPE family. “I would tell anybody that endurance sports are the way to go.” She’ll run the first race of many with Team HOPE in Nashville on April 21.

“I’m looking forward to being a member of Team HOPE,” Niki says. Team HOPE is looking forward to having you, Niki.

Team Hope For The Warriors (Team HOPE) provides athletes of all abilities the opportunity to compete at various endurance events throughout the year. Team HOPE is comprised of two different groups: Warrior Team and Community Team.

  • Warrior Team members are provided race support, goal-setting opportunities, and social engagement to ensure that they all feel the camaraderie, belonging, and connection that comes with being part of a team.
  • Community Team members challenge themselves to raise funds for America’s heroes, set new athletic goals, or simply support our military. Together, these Team members are united with the goal of improving the health of service members and military families across the nation.

*All Warrior Team participants must connect to services with Hope For The Warriors before being added to the program.