Running Commentary

Runner’s World editor discusses the sport’s link to political races

November 6, 2012

President Bill Clinton runs with a Secret Service agent on Martha’s Vineyard in 1997. He treated his jogs as social outings and often ended up at McDonald’s.

The news about running hasn’t been so hot recently. There’s the Michigan dentist who’s been labeled a “marathon fraud” for his questionable wins. There’s the competitive runner who was caught injecting EPO. Even the Lance Armstrong scandal has extended to his marathon times, which are likely to get wiped from the record books.

“There’s lying and cheating in the air. It must be a presidential election year,” jokes David Willey, editor-in-chief of Runner’s World, which unexpectedly had a scoop this summer when it found that Paul Ryan had fudged his claim that he’d run a marathon in less than three hours.

Whether the GOP vice presidential candidate purposely lied or just has a bad memory, the story had legs — particularly among Willey’s readership.


Runner’s World November issue

“Runners are upstanding, responsible, goal-oriented people who put pride into efforts and times,” he says. “He tried to claim credit for an achievement without doing the work. That violated their unspoken code.”

Will it affect the results of today’s election? Probably not, Willey says, but he thinks runners as a voting bloc will cast their ballots with a few specific issues in mind, including the environment and health care. Personally, he’d like to see running used as a public policy in the fight against obesity.

“It’s the best and quickest way to get kids moving,” Willey says.

It’s also an effective regimen for presidents, who don’t just run for office but also for exercise, stress relief, mental clarity and a host of other benefits, he says. The November issue of Runner’s World features an interview with former Secret Service agent Nick Trotta, who ran with President Bill Clinton and both Presidents Bush.

“You can really tell a lot about the person by what kind of runner he or she is,” says Willey, who notes the major differences between the presidents’ styles. While W liked to go out in 100-degree-plus weather and rarely had anyone other than his security detail tag along, Clinton used his jogs as social events, inviting other folks to join in and often ending with a bite at McDonald’s.


Willey

Willey finds it unremarkable that so many presidents have been runners. (“It’s not as though they’re stamp collectors. There are a lot of runners in America.”) What amazes him is that more politicians don’t run.

“Running sends the message that a president is healthy, vigorous and active,” Willey says. “It’s also incredibly egalitarian and democratic. You can do it anywhere, and it doesn’t take a lot of time.”

That’s important when your schedule includes running the country.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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