Almost immediately after that giant Woodrow Wilson mascot appeared outside Nats Park during the summer, someone suggested to me the giant-headed figure might be affiliated with the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half-Marathon.
Indeed, his Facebook-fueled rhetoric (and sneakers) suggested a heavy interest in competitive running, so I reached out to race organizers, who claimed innocence.
The Nats, of course, also denied responsibility, saying in a statement that “The Nationals have not added any new mascots and are not responsible for the actions or materials distributed by unofficial mascots outside Nationals Park.”
Well, the mystery has been solved, and my original tipster was correct. Giant Woodrow will be part of the Woody Wilson Kids Run affiliated with Sunday’s race, and is a creation of race organizers.
“He’s back, he’s rested, he’s tanned, he’s running and he’s training, and I’m so glad that he’s with us,” race director and founder Steve Nearman said in this week’s Gotta Get Running show with Phil Hargis and Chris Farley.
Farley then got Nearman out of character for a second to discuss the origins of this giant race promoter.
“You know, it seemed to work really well for the Nationals,” Nearman noted. “Anywhere you go in this country, people, when they think about the Nationals, they ask about the Presidents Race. So we thought it would be an interesting tie-in to get Woody out there as one of the Presidents, bring him in, run against the Presidents.
“Historically, it makes a lot of sense, because Woodrow, back in 1912, he beat Teddy Roosevelt and he beat Taft, which is two of the five [Racing Presidents]. So you’d think all these years, they would want a rematch. So he’s here and he’s training; they were avoiding him. They’re avoiding him, because they’re afraid.
“We’ve hung out in front of Nats games; the fans have gone nuts, they absolutely just have loved him. They’ve had their pictures taken with him. They always ask, wherever we go: are you gonna race the Nats, are you gonna race the Nats? We’re putting out the challenge. Invite us, and we’ll come blow you guys away. We run. We don’t sit there and drink beer and eat hot dogs like mascots in a baseball game. We are out there training. So we look forward to it. We’re putting the challenge out: we can beat all five Presidents in the Nationals race.”
Meanwhile, because this is real life, I’m still getting random e-mails from concerned citizens who want me to know about Wilson’s complicated legacy.
“Making him a running president would be an appalling event,” read one recent message, which focused on his racial record. “You might want to look into this further. Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”