7 Jun

Running For Office

Had enough of political posturing these last few weeks? Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, Tim Farron, and Nicola Sturgeon with their predictable promises over the NHS, education and the economy. All well and good, but what we really want to know is which politician gets our vote as the best runner? Never mind Brexit negotiations, who's got what it takes in a pair of trainers?

The roll call of politicians with a running history is impressive, with more than a handful of elite runners going on to a career in elected office after hanging up their spikes.

Seb Coe’s political career as a Conservative MP from 1992-1997 is sandwiched by his Olympic gold medal winning career and leading role in sports administration at London 2012 and now the IAAF. He was preceded by another British track legend Chris Chataway, a Commonwealth gold medallist who went on to serve a total of 12 years as an MP.

It is not just in the UK where runners have gone from the blocks to the benches. Multiple 400m medallist Ana Guevara is a senator in her native Mexico, four-time Olympic gold medallist Lasse Virén had two stints as a member of the Finnish Parliament and legendary American miler Jim Ryun is a former member of the US House of Representatives.  

Kenya’s National Assembly currently boasts two Boston Marathon winners, 2000 victor Elijah Kiptarbei Lagat and 2012 winner Wesley Korir.

But for every Coe or Virén, there is an Ed Balls. Politicians whose feet are much more at home on the creaking boards of the chamber than on a marathon course. Nonetheless, all in the name of a good cause, the former shadow chancellor is one of dozens of politicians to have completed the London Marathon. Current mayor of London Sadiq Khan is another.

The fastest time by a sitting politician was by former Conservative MP Matthew Parris who ran a super-fast 2:32:57 in 1985, a time way beyond any MP since. Across the pond, former President George W Bush has a marathon medal on his CV, having completed the Houston event in 1993.

Former vice president Al Gore has also completed the 26.2-mile distance, at the Marine Corps Marathon in 1997.

These being politicians, there are also times when not only have the muscles gotten over-stretched, so too has the truth. Current speaker of the US House of Representatives Republican Paul Ryan once claimed to have run a sub-three hour marathon in his 20s.

When researchers found his only recorded time as over four hours, he explained: “I literally thought that was my time. It was 22 years ago. You sorta forget these things.” Of course you do Paul, of course. We marathon runners literally never remember our times, do we?

But even Ryan’s shady claims pale into insignificance to those of a former Mexican presidential candidate. At the 2007 Berlin Marathon, Roberto Madrazo crossed the finish line arms outstretched as the over-55 winner in an astonishing 2hrs 40mins.

It was only later discovered that he dropped out at the halfway point and headed straight to the finish. After a week’s silence, he finally emerged to clarify: "I never declared myself the winner in Berlin with the time distributed by the media nor did I receive any medal for the alleged first place.”

He added: “My marathon times have been between three hours, 14 minutes and three hours, 54 minutes - never two hours and 40 minutes. It would be impossible for a 55-year-old man to do that.”

So, even if Donald Trump does succeed in one of his major policy pledges, at least one Mexican will be unaffected. He knows how to shortcut walls.