Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is a dedicated runner. How dedicated? The Republican, in his second term, passed up an invitation from the president to watch the inaugural parade from the presidential box in order to do a training run.
"It's hard to say no to [a presidential invitation], but I also needed to stay on my training schedule," Huckabee said. "I didn't get to run early that morning because of the inauguration. So while my wife went to the White House and sat in the box with the president to watch the parade, I was back at the hotel fitness center on the treadmill running five miles and watching the parade on the TV. As I was about in the third mile, it occurred to me, 'You know, you must really, really want to do this.' "
Huckabee, 50, wasn't always this hard-core about running. Two years ago, he could barely run a block. Then he started a weight-loss program, eventually losing 110 pounds. First he tried walking, but quickly became bored with that. On an impulse, he decided to see how far he could run.
"It was kind of like Forrest Gump coming out of the braces, and one thing led to another," Huckabee said. "I did a second block, then the third. Next thing I know, I'm running half a mile."
The half-mile led to his first 5K race, an impressive accomplishment, or so he thought until a television reporter encouraged him to train for a marathon.
"I told her, 'Alice, I might as well fly the space shuttle,' " Huckabee said. "You don't understand. I really can't run. I've had three knee surgeries. I have the flattest feet in America. It's not physically realistic for me to do that."
Huckabee eventually relented, agreeing to sign up for the Little Rock Marathon.
"I figured I'd get to six, seven miles and I would absolutely burn out," he said. "To my amazement, every weekend when I would add a mile or so in the training program, I could do it."
In March, Huckabee ran the Little Rock Marathon, finishing in 4 hours 38 minutes 31 seconds.
"Honestly, running a marathon was one of the greatest days of my life. It ranks up there with the birth of my children," Huckabee said. "Crossing that finish line is truly one of the most incredible moments I think a human being can have."
The Marine Corps Marathon will be Huckabee's second marathon. His daughter Sarah, who works for the Department of Education, was inspired by her father to sign up for the race and invited him to come run it with her. She won't be running because of a knee problem, but her dad plans to go ahead anyway.
So how did a guy who couldn't run a block two years ago end up running two marathons in eight months?
"I never missed one of the training days," Huckabee said. "I really feel that's the key to being able to do it. I'm not a great athlete. I'm a guy who's never done anything athletic in his life ever, and there's no way I should have been able to do that. But if you train and you just commit to the discipline and focus of the training, I'm convinced even a guy like me can do it."
-- Kathy Orton