Why John Podesta runs

June 2, 2014

White House counselor John Podesta arguably has had some of the most intense jobs in Washington. Serving as chief of staff during President Bill Clinton’s second term was a particularly stressful time, he says in an interview in the May issue of Runner’s World — and it was then that he “started running with a vengeance . . . I had to melt the stress off.”

He and Clinton “had a very honest relationship. . . He’d yell at me. I’d yell at him. But the stress is incredible. You’re always on edge.”

After a tough morning on “Meet the Press” with Tim Russert, Podesta says, “I’d come home, throw my shirt off, and go outside and run and forget about whether I said something good or something bad. I just had to get rid of it.”

Podesta took up running in his late 30s and ran his first marathon at 52. Now, at 65, he averages “a half-dozen races a year, mostly 10-K, 10-mile or half-marathon.” In an online video accompanying the article, Podesta explains the appeal of the sport.

“I’m a man of simple pleasures. I like playing cards. I like watching old cop shows on TV. I like cooking and I like running,” Podesta says as he prepares a no-frills pre-race Italian meal — pasta with a walnut sauce, a simple marinara — to serve to his running group, the Progressive Ninjas.

White House counselor John Podesta can suggest some good places for President Obama to run. (Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

Podesta says President Obama, who is said to exercise on a treadmill, ought to “overrule the Secret Service and find a place to run outside.”

Podesta enjoys running along the Mall and in Rock Creek Park, where, he says, he received his most valuable running tip, from a stranger: “Keep your head up, you’ll run faster.”

Nora Krug is a Book World editor and a MisFits columnist.
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