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February 16, 2017

A Presidential Race: What if every U.S. president raced a 5K fun run?

With a few exceptions, every US president has been at least mildly overweight, painfully aristocratic, elderly and afflicted by some stage of dementia, morally bankrupt, syphilitic, or marred by some combination of all these conditions.

It’s almost a requisite for a presidential candidate to be visibly unhealthy, yet publicly boast of their good health. We hear them self-identify as “high-energy,” or “resilient,” but rarely are we given concrete figures to coincide with these clearly bogus claims.

That is, until now.

Using my powers of speculative intuition and an imaginary algorithm, I’ve crunched the stats and have determined the outcome of the following hypothetical scenario: What If Every United States President Raced a 5K Fun Run? (For the sake of this thought exercise, we are assuming each competitor toes the line at the peak of their physical conditioning while in office.)

Join me as we enter a realm wherein spacetime only applies to how fast a bunch of dead guys can jog or in most cases walk, three miles. Let’s have some fun — with history!

  1. George W. Bush – 22:35; Before he was lying his way into a war in the Middle East, Bush was a sub-4-hour marathoner. For a president, that’s like being Ashton Eaton. Even during his presidency, the former Yale cheerleader jogged six days a week. Considering many of his competitors probably smoked and drank heavily at the behest of their poorly trained physicians, that seems like enough to take home the… “W.”
  2. Barack Obama – 25:01; Though a sporadic smoker, Obama was photographed shirtless during his time in office and looked comparatively very fit. Plus, he enjoyed recreational basketball while president, which honestly counts for more than it probably should here. Here’s a very recent photo of Obama’s feet. Those puppies look like they could get through three miles with ease.
  3. Jimmy Carter – 25:30; Ol’ Jimmy Peanut once ran a 10k in public and he passed out but at least is familiar with the rigors of the sport. That’s good enough for a podium finish in our imaginary race.
  4. Bill Clinton – 25:40; Clinton was perhaps the most cavalier about upper-thigh exposure of any US president. That sort of confidence can’t negate a pudgy midsection, but compared to his peers, it’s a massive advantage.
  5. Abraham Lincoln – 28:00; Many historians have speculated that Honest Abe suffered from Marfan’s Syndrome, a congenital condition resulting in long, slender limbs, among other health issues. In other words, a long stride and ideal runner’s build.
  6. Gerald R. Ford  – 28:17; A former football player, he at least had a history in athletics and probably some concussions to his name. (TOUGH.)
  7. Theodore Roosevelt  – 28:45; Roosevelt was a notorious outdoorsman, but was a stocky fellow. I’d take him in a 100m but a 5k might stretch the limits of his range.
  8. John F. Kennedy  – 29:00; A well-documented alcoholic and womanizer, Kennedy comes from good New England stock but still takes a walk break at mile two.
  9. John Quincy Adams – 31:43; The first president who wasn’t gout-riddled or an opium addict, this regular health nut also routinely taxed his aerobic system by skinny-dipping in the Potomac.
  10. James K. Polk – 32:01; Despite a penchant for enacting Manifest Destiny, Polk is unable to “go the distance” on the 5k course and fails to dip under the elusive 32-minute barrier.
  11. Thomas Jefferson – 34:27; The pain-dulling effects of alleged opium-use propel this controversial Virginian to a respectable 11th-place.
  12. Calvin Coolidge  – 34:30; At this point, simply not being extremely old or chubby guarantees you beat most of your colleagues. Coolidge refuses to drink water and instead takes salt tablets every half mile.
  13. Franklin Pierce – 36:48; Though arguably one of the worst presidents and an anti-abolitionist, Pierce’s lower BMI and fashionable haircut push him toward the front of the pack as a 5k-man.
  14. George H. W. Bush – 36:49; The miracles of modern medicine and genetically modified foodstuffs are all that keep the frail H.W. from finishing near the rear.
  15. Millard Fillmore – 37:09; The last of the Whigs, Fillmore puts on for his dying political party with a last second surge that nearly slips him under 37-minutes.
  16. (tie) Harry S. Truman – 37:11; One spearheaded the Interstate system, one used a nuclear bomb to kill thousands. But despite their differences, these two rivals cross the line hand-in-hand, in a heart-wrenching display of presidential solidarity.
  17. (tie) Dwight D. Eisenhower – 37:11
  18. Woodrow Wilson – 37:40; A nerd, but not morbidly obese like most of his immediate predecessors from what I’ll call The Fat Guy Era, Wilson bests notorious asshole Andrew Jackson.
  19. Andrew Jackson – 39:24; This garbage human killed thousands. Not a great 5K guy, either.
  20. Rutherford B. Hayes – 39:30; With a beard to envy, Hayes has the appearance of a modern male Instagram fitness model, who makes most of his living hawking tea and protein shakes online. Accordingly, he’s probably taken a walk for the sake of fitness before.
  21. Andrew Johnson – 40:02; Of course he has to finish behind Lincoln.
  22. John Tyler – 40:45; Gaunt in appearance, he’s got the look, but his heavy snus use keeps him from achieving greatness. He only stops to dry-heave once or twice.
  23. George Washington – 41:33; The first finisher to use a rich man’s walking stick, Washington was probably too wealthy to really use his legs that often. Plus his teeth were made of wood — what’s to say other bones of his weren’t also wooden? George definitely succumbs to debilitating shin splints halfway through but guts it out.
  24. James Madison  – 42:47; Sure, he’s partially responsible for our decent but definitely flawed constitution but he’s a sub-par athlete. A side stitch hinders his last mile; Washington calls him “bitch” as he limps past.
  25. James Monroe – 42:59; The Monroe Doctrine mentions nothing about base mileage, and so its originator craps the bed.
  26. Ulysses S. Grant – 43:01; It’s been said Grant was too sensitive a man to be a successful president. But it’s his reported alcoholism that keeps him from success on the course.
  27. Ronald Reagan – 44:00; For most of his presidency, Reagan was ostensibly a zombie. But zombies at least have the ability to hobble forward in a generally straight line. He’s one of our last finishers, but he gets there.
  28. Warren G. Harding – 46:56; His legacy is tainted by his well-documented penchant for extramarital affairs. That’s not that relevant — he’s just too doughy and stressed out to cover much ground.
  29. Herbert Hoover – 47:23; Like the vacuum with which he shares a name, this guy SUCKS. Name one decent middle-distance runner who has ever had shantytowns named after them.
  30. (tie) Grover Cleveland – 55:01; Grover finishes alongside his non-consecutive term-serving self. The two Grovers are the final men who push their disgusting lumpy bodies across the line. That’s the sort of heroism that gets a rest stop on the Jersey Turnpike named for you.
  31. (tie) Grover Cleveland -55:01

John Adams – DNF (gout); Martin Van Buren – DNF (bullied by Whigs); William Henry Harrison – DNF (died); Zachary Taylor – DNS (excessive raw fruit and iced milk consumption); James Buchanan – DNF (cowardice); James Garfield – DNF (fatigue); Chester A. Arthur – DNF (fatigue); Benjamin Harrison – (overslept); William McKinley – DNF (excessive jowls); William Howard Taft – DNF (stuck in the tub); Franklin D. Roosevelt – DNS (ADA not yet passed, unfortunately, as it is a very important piece of legislation); Lyndon B. Johnson – DNS (quoted saying “joggin’s fer p*****s”); Richard M. Nixon – DNS (phlebitis); Donald J. Trump – DNF (full diaper)


  1. Dan says:

    This is the best piece of sports journalism since Updike stopped writing for SI.

  2. Kay says:

    Do the Supreme Court justices next please.

  3. Joe Fabitz says:

    Sporadic smoker? Strung out skinny smoker with zero athleticism and you think 25? He earned that Nobel Peace Prize also.

  4. Jake Howell says:

    I think old W would be insulted if he saw how slow you have him. At least put him under 22 minutes.

  5. Renato Muller says:

    A Supreme Court injunction would guarantee FDR to run in the disabled category…

  6. Christine Anderson says:

    Go back to your safe space the grown ups are talking.

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