FORTUNE -- I ran three miles in Warren Buffett's shoes.
For the first time, this past weekend, Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA) hosted a five-kilometer run on the Sunday of its annual meeting. I ran. Buffett did not.
But he was there to shoot the starting gun, give out awards and add, of course, some folksy charm. Berkshire has owned sneaker company Brooks since 2006. But until last year, it was a division of underwear company Fruit of the Loom, which is also owned by Berkshire. Last year, Buffett spun Brooks out into its own operating company and began more aggressively promoting the company, at least at Berkshire's annual meeting.
The running shoe company is trading on Buffett's popularity as well. There's a drawing of Buffett running on the inside of the shoe, and it says "Berkshire Hathaway" on the side.
Brooks CEO Jim Weber says he likes directly reporting to Buffett. He meets with Berkshire's CEO twice a year, including once at the annual meeting. "If we need him to talk through strategy, he's always available," says Weber. "What I like the best is that I know this is our last owner."
Berkshire is known for rarely selling companies. But at the annual meeting this year, some people speculated about a breakup after Buffett is no longer running the company. Buffett said he didn't think that would happen but said it would be up to his successor.
Weber says Buffett has been very supportive of Brooks's focus on the high end of the running shoe market. "It creates a moat," says Weber, referring to a Buffettism about the things that protect businesses from competition. "He likes that." Though he struggled with the question as to what business advice Buffett has given him, or what Buffett has advised him to do differently.
Nonetheless, Brooks's focus seems to be working. Weber says sales, which are up 34% from a year ago, will crack $500 million in 2013. And he thinks the company is on the path to double that in the next few years in part because it is spending a lot of money on research. Its newest line of shoes are light-weight, playing to the whole barefoot running movement.
And in one sense, Buffett needs Brooks to get big fast. One of the things Buffett rarely gets criticized for is that at a time when many are worried about U.S. obesity rates, and rising health care costs, many of Buffett's companies, including Dairy Queen and Coke (KO), which Buffett has long been a big investor in, push sugary foods.
So you could see Brooks as hedge, just in case America decides it's time to get a lot healthier, though at this point it's still pretty small hedge. Even if not, Weber says he thinks Brooks fits into Buffett's philosophy about life. "We think a full life is a See's candy followed by a run," says Weber.
Last summer, I ran my first 5k in a number of years and finished in just over 34 minutes. It was hilly. I have been running regularly since. Brooks lent me a pair of PureCadence 2 sneakers to try out for the race. When I put them on, they were immediately comfortable. The sneakers say they have features to prevent overpronation, a condition I didn't think I had during the race, but I guess I don't know. The shoe's tongue is fully attached on one side, so you can't pull it up to get your foot in, which I thought would be annoying, but it wasn't. I finished the race in 29 minutes and 46 seconds.
It must have been the shoes.
In Omaha, some of the Buffett faithful aren't particularly bullish on Berkshire's stock but they see value in Europe and Apple.
FORTUNE -- Be cautious about U.S. stocks and, especially, bonds. Europe is a good value. Berkshire Hathaway's stock is no longer a buy, but Apple may be. That was the general feeling of investors gathered here in Omaha for Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting.
The mood about the market matched the weather, MOREStephen Gandel, senior editor - May 4, 2013 11:22 AM ET
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Berkshire Hathaway's first-quarter profit tumbled 58% from a year ago, as the company took a $1.1 billion pretax hit on last month's earthquake in Japan.
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It's surely not a question the billionaire Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA) CEO relishes nowadays – not a month after David Sokol (right), his longtime right hand man and presumed successor, was unmasked as a selfish, rule-bending creep.
But however unfair it may seem, the judgment question is one the 80-year-old Buffett won't be able to avoid this weekend. He and Berkshire Vice Chairman MOREColin Barr - Apr 29, 2011 5:48 AM ET
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