Racing presidents run to get a head

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For anyone who thinks it’s hard trying to be president, consider what it’s like trying to be a dead president.

Endless speeches, hand-shaking and pandering?

Try running and dancing and carrying on while wearing a foam-covered head weighing up to 50 pounds, all together 11- or 12-feet tall, that severely challenges sense of balance and changes vision from normal to tunnel.

It takes guts. It takes commitment. It takes a special breed of fan to want to don the gigantic heads of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt and do all sorts of wacky things during the fourth-inning Presidents Race at Washington Nationals home games.

Yesterday morning, an unseasonably balmy Presidents Day (of course), 30 members of that special breed — government workers and graphic artists and paralegals and PBS employees among them — gathered at the Nationals’ old home, RFK Stadium.

They had survived the first cut from a pool of about 120 applicants, invited to audition to be a racing president during the upcoming season in the new ballpark, to be among the few and the proud. Between 15 and 20 will get jobs, according to Nationals entertainment coordinator Tom Davis.

(Note: All the prospective presidents will be identified by first name only, in compliance with the team’s request for double-secret privacy, lest anyone learn his boss or cubicle-mate moonlights as Honest Abe.)

Among the more gutsy and committed was Lauren from Capitol Hill who has a broken right elbow. She also was one of just two women on hand, thus raising the question of whether Nationals fans are ready for a female racing president. Then again, with the costume, it’s hard to tell.

But she certainly appears to be tough enough. Lauren got hurt Friday while playing basketball with the guys. She said she fell while going for a rebound, “and my forearm went into my elbow.”

That’s gross. Yet here she was, wearing just a splint and running around as George Washington, a pretty tough cookie himself.

“I know I’d run quicker if I had a full, working arm,” she said.

But Lauren remained upbeat, positive, as undaunted as, well, the Father of Our Country.

“It was hot in there,” she said. “And [the head] is heavy. But it was so much fun. Imagine what it would be like in front of a stadium full of people.”

Asked why she is doing this, she quickly answered: “Why not?” she said. “How fun is that? I’m a huge sports fanatic.”

Others applied the same because-it’s-there rationale.

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