This weekend I finished reading Christopher McDougall’s national bestselling book Born to Run which, among other surprising conclusions, suggests that Homo sapiens outlasted their Neanderthal brethren due to the ability to run long distances. Persistence hunting, as it’s come to be known, required a blend of instinct, strength and stamina perfected over centuries of “do-or-die situations.” It’s no wonder, then, that humans run marathons; you might say the ability to run is rooted deep in our collective DNA.
Runners are natural competitors, striving for either a personal best or to lead the pack. Perhaps that explains why so many of our leaders in the White House–and those who’ve aspired to be elected to the Oval Office–have taken up the sport. Five of the last six presidents were avid joggers, and the closest election in our lifetime involved marathoners Al Gore and George W. Bush (tellingly, Bush’s time at the 1993 Houston Marathon was more than an hour swifter than Gore’s at the 1997 Marine Corps Marathon).
With election campaigns now stretching well over a year it made me wonder, which requires more stamina: going the distance of 26.2 miles on the open road, or finishing first on the campaign trail? I asked some of the runners and spectators of the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon to share their thoughts. Check out their responses in this video, and let us know your opinion in the comment section below.
Stefan Frank is the National Constitution Center’s Director of Digital Engagement and manager of Constitution Daily’s Twitter account @ConDailyBlog. Follow us!