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home > community > viewpoint > running for president—literally

Running for President—Literally
Granted, this is not a forum for politics; nonetheless, here is a question for the (running) nation: is the U.S. ready for yet another long distance runner in the oval office?

Running for President—Literally

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By Don Allison
Posted Monday, 10 December, 2007

It is fairly well known that the current president was at one time an avid runner. In fact, he clocked a 3:43 marathon before assuming the presidency, and while in office blasted a 20-minute five-km, a truly impressive result for anyone in their 50s, never mind one charged with holding the highest office in the land. Knee woes forced George W. Bush to trade in his running shoes for a mountain bike, but he has approached that sport with equal zeal and commitment.

Needless to say, sustaining such a high level of fitness requires more than just a half-hour workout every now and then. The president’s training routine has been well chronicled, and in fact has become the target of critics. After all, it would seem a sitting president would have more important things to do than slipping away from the oval office for a few hours to go play outside, not to mention the requisite stretching, shower, and eating afterward. Before you know it, a good part of the day has disappeared. When a foreign dignitary schedules a visit to the White House, does the secretary tell him or her, “Oh, I’m sorry; next Tuesday afternoon is out—the president will be mountain biking on the C&O Canal Path at that time.”

No one knows how the election will turn out next November (although there are plenty of pundits that claim otherwise), but there is yet another fitness enthusiast on the campaign trail. Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, is also known for losing 110 pounds and having completed several marathons (in the 4:30 range). Click here to check out Huckabee’s before and after photos. His book, wittily titled “Quit Digging Your Grave With A Knife And Fork,” details his journey from fat to fit. A true believer in the benefits of exercise, Huckabee is sure to bring his training routine to Washington, should he be elected.

An article in the on-line publication Slate asks the question: Is it a good thing to have a president with exercise constantly on his (or her) mind? For an executive in a position of such importance, do the benefits accrued outweigh the necessary investment of time, energy, and effort? For that matter, do the benefits accrued outweigh the necessary investment of time, energy, and effort for you, me, or anyone else?

That, of course, depends upon the value and priority we place on training and staying fit, relative to our other obligations and passions. Any activity, especially one that requires such a large expenditure of energy, is sure to extract some sort of toll. Certainly, a vigorous workout can leave you energized, but for how long? A well-paced 10-mile run can feel great and clear your mind, but a few hours later can put you in desperate need of a nap. When that lull hits, I would not like to have a state dinner on the docket, or have to make a crucial decision with the future of the free world resting in the balance.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Huckabee spoke of his training routine: “I run Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Friday is an off day. I follow a very rigid training program that I originally used for the first Little Rock Marathon. This is the fourth time I've used it. I follow it to the letter without exception. If some extraordinary thing happens I'll do it the day before or after. But I keep those miles very focused. I build the rest of my schedule around that running schedule. Sometimes I have to get up in the wee hours of the morning to get it done.” International relations and acts of Congress can always wait, right?

Interestingly, Huckabee also shared his thoughts on the extraordinary fitness of the current chief executive: “President Bush might be one of the most healthy politicians out there. One of the things I wish he would do more of is talk more about his own personal regimen, because I think he is in the position to cause people to pay attention. He is certainly an extraordinary fit individual and is fanatical about his exercise routine.”

To me, that sounds like someone who is gong to put his training pretty high on the priority list. That is understandable, since Huckabee has become, in effect, a national spokesman for improving one’s health through a better diet and fitness. Through his book and ever-increasing public profile, he has become a role model for millions of unfit Americans, saying in essence, “I was once a fat slob like you, but look at me now!” (Click here to read an article detailing Huckabee’s passion for this topic.) But as the Slate article points out, Huckabee has a lot of credibility riding on his ability to back up these pronouncements, which would ring hollow if he does not continue to walk it (or run it) like he talks it. He seems to have done a pretty good job of managing his work and fitness schedule so far. Not only has he endured the rigorous daily grind of campaigning in several states, he has moved up in polls from relative unknown to near frontrunner status, all while sticking to his exercise routine.

I suppose the point I am trying to make is that long distance exercise and training offers many benefits, but for most, (whether or not they harbor presidential aspirations) creating extra time in the day for other activities is not one of them. Some people claim that in order to fit training into their lives they cut down on their sleep, but it makes me tired just to think about that. Others claim to be super-efficient workout machines; these folks claim they can log a vigorous workout, clean up, and be working at full throttle, all within 60 minutes. If you can sustain this on a day-in, day-out basis, more power to you!

It all makes for interesting food for thought, so to speak. In another age, it would have been laughable to think of physical fitness as a campaign platform, but no longer, given the era in which we live. If Mike Huckabee is successful in his “run” for the presidency, the White House Secret Service detail can once again expect to get plenty of exercise during the next four years. See you on the road, Mike. Just don’t be late for any meetings.



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