It turns out that in the lead up to the U.S. Democratic nomination it isn’t the first time Bernie Sanders could become a front runner.
"The untold story of Bernie Sanders, high school track star," is the headline of an article in Friday’s Washington Post, which details the 74-year-old’s former prowess as a runner.
And like most front runners, politically and athletically, Sanders demonstrates commitment, competitiveness, strategic thinking, drive, grit and plain old guts.
When his supporters hashtag him on Twitter with #FeelTheBern, maybe they already knew something the rest of us are just finding out about him.
His high school yearbook called Sanders a “standout” after he finished first in a local area race in Brooklyn. He became co-captain of his track team the next year, again won the same race and then raced to a third spot in New York City in the indoor one-mile, according to the Post.
The Post reports that Sanders told CNN, “I was a very good long-distance runner — not a great runner, but I was captain of my cross-country team, won a lot of cross-country meets and certainly won a lot of races."
A former training partner, Lou Howort told the Post that Sanders was very well-known from his freshman year. He said Sanders was "probably the top runner in the city for ninth graders. He was an elite runner at that point.”
Philip Bump - the Post’s writer - noted (spoiler alert) that “some might see a metaphor buried in here — a tale about a guy who is a surprisingly strong runner, who comes in 18th in the race that makes the papers but wins races that no one expects, about a guy who comes from out of nowhere, trains hard and makes the competition nervous.”
Sanders isn't the only politician who knows how to make good time
As it turns out, Sanders isn’t the only swift politician - and we’re not just talking intellect now.
Politco ran a gallery in October of politicians who are “fast on their feet.”
They include former President Bill Clinton (who shows up in several photos); then-Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee looking relaxed as he holds his finisher’s medal after running the Marine Corps Marathon; and Sarah Palin, who prefers the path-less-followed, as she runs trail.
Most impressive of all though is former Republican Representative Jim Ryun. Politico reports that Ryun held world records in the mile and 1500 metres, and their photo shows him crossing the finish line in the Men’s 1500-metre race at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City to take silver.
Sanders didn't make the cut. Clearly, he flew under the radar until now.
And then, of course, there was Paul Ryan.
Ryan, you may recall, is the former Republican Vice-Presidential candidate on the Mitt Romney ticket who boasted on radio of running a “two-hour and fifty something marathon.”
For those of you who follow politics more closely than running, a sub-three marathon is a very respectable time by anyone’s standard. Except that Ryan didn’t run that.
He actually ran a four hour and one minute marathon at the aptly named Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota.It took some pinning down to find the result. Upon first hearing the claim, Runner’s World went to work looking for the results. The magazine’s Newswire editor Scott Douglas couldn’t find them. He emailed, asking for clarification and met a blank wall.
Finally, a Ryan staffer replied: “”His comments on the [radio] show were the best of his recollection.”
Amazingly enough, despite having a false memory over his marathon time (not something runners usually forget) Ryan is still around. Politico reported that he hosted a Republican fundraising retreat in late January.
So, who's going to win the Democratic race?
Back to Sanders: why should the Post care about his…er, track record?
Much has been made about the fact that Sanders would turn 75 on Inauguration Day, making him the oldest U.S. president in history.
But an attending physician in Congress recently testified to Sanders’ good health, noting that he had no history of cardiovascular disease.
It’s true running doesn’t preclude heart troubles. Jim Fixx, the author of the 1977 classic, The Complete Book of Running, which helped kick-start the running boom, died of a heart attack while jogging.
However, that’s an anomaly; running is more likely to contribute to overall well being and cardiovascular health than not.
The upshot is, Sanders is ready to a run a race again. This time, it's in the race of his life against Hillary Clinton — then against the Republican Party.