It’s known as the people’s marathon, but when 30,000 runners compete Sunday in the 38th Marine Corps Marathon, they’ll also be following in the footsteps of some major political figures.
Pols ranging from mayors to mascot presidents have run — though none was as fast as the future Justice Clarence Thomas, who ran in 3:11:00 in 1980, well before he traded his running shorts for a robe on the high court.
Al Gore completed the race in 4:54:25 while serving as vice president in 1997, topped a year later by Jill Biden, wife of then-senator and now Vice President Joseph R. Biden. She finished in 4:30:02.
This year, Rep. Stephen Lynch, Massachusetts Democrat, will join their ranks and tackle the people’s marathon, said Tami Faram, spokeswoman for the race.
The 26.2-mile loop through D.C. and Arlington takes runners by the Washington Monument, the Capitol, and the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, and ends at the Iwo Jima Memorial, where Marines present finishers with the iconic Eagle, Globe and Anchor medal.
Thomas declined to talk about his celebrity-record run, but some of the other politicians who have raced said it was an experience to treasure.
That was true for former Sen. Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, who ran the 2001 marathon less than two months after the Sept. 11 attacks, and finished in 4:54:36.
“I have run seven marathons and the most memorable and emotional was the Marine Corps following 9/11,” Frist said in an email to The Washington Times. “You felt the spirit of making one’s personal best to represent our country’s best, especially as we ran by the violated, partially destroyed Pentagon building.”
For former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, it was part of a total body transition that took him from obese to marathoner.
He ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 2005, his second of four marathons, and said his secret was to build training into his schedule, no matter what.
“If it called for me to run 12 miles that day, I ran 12 miles that day. It didn’t matter if I was in South Korea, which I was,” said the host of Fox News’ Channel’s “Huckabee” show. “I just built that into the schedule as if it were a meeting.”
Former Rep. Jon Porter, Nevada Republican, followed a less regimented training plan, preferring to run whenever he could find time between working in Congress and flying back and forth from the West.
“If I had 30 minutes, I’d run for 30 minutes. If I had 15 minutes, I’d run for 15 minutes,” he said.
He decided on the Marine Corps Marathon for his first to honor military members who serve the country.
“I knew this was a challenging, personal mission. No one could do it for me but me, it was my way of saying thank you to the men and women who lost their lives and are currently serving today,” he said. “I knew it was a major undertaking, a challenge, and I wanted to show my respect.”
Huckabee’s tip to those who may be struggling with motivation leading up to the race is to dedicate each mile to someone and let them know before the race. He’s used that tactic in all four of his races to keep going and reach the finish.
“I put all their names on a little card and laminated it, so it wouldn’t get destroyed with my sweat, and wore it around my neck on a lanyard,” he said. “Every mile, I never wanted to have to say to that person, ‘I made it this far, but I choked on your mile.’ I can’t stress how valuable that was.”
Though Frist said he was a slow runner, he continued to participate in races like the Army 10-Miler in D.C. and has run with Marines, the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell, Ky., and along the Grand Canyon. About five years ago, he the former senator stopped running but continues to exercise with yoga, pilates, spinning and cycling trips.
“Casual and fun long-distance running set the foundation of my love and commitment to exercise and a healthy lifestyle, and I know a healthier and more fulfilling life,” he said.
“It was more rewarding that I was able to do it for the Marines, so I will do it again,” he said. “It’s not about winning, it’s about finishing. I knew there were 18,000 people ahead of me, but I’m proud to say I did it and I did it for the Marines.”