Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 12, 2016

Capital Health: ‘America’s Fittest Senator’ in 1988

Just how long has former Sen. Richard Lugar been running? So long that when Roll Call’s Capital Health profiled the Indiana Republican on Oct. 30, 1988, he had already been running for nearly two decades.

Lugar was a fixture of the Capital Challenge 5K. (CQ Roll Call File Photo.)

Lugar was a fixture of the Capital Challenge 5K. This photo was taken in 2000, when he was presented with a collage of his time with the race. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“Lugar’s regime of running 15 to 20 miles a week is part of an overall interest in fitness that began nearly 20 years ago,” Lucretia A. Marmon wrote. “Last month, Lugar was the first Senator to cross the finish line in the five-kilometer Nike Capital Challenge Race, beating such younger colleagues at Sen. Al Gore (D-Tenn). Lugar co-sponsored the race each year for the benefit of the Special Olympics. But Lugar is more than fast. He is in remarkable overall physical condition, as tough as the limestone for which his state is famous. There’s little doubt that he’s America’s fittest US Senator,” she continued.

Press aide Mark Helmke recounted for Marmon that, when the senator was traveling abroad in his capacity as Foreign Relations chairman, his office “would contact the US embassy to line up a companion runner. ‘You could usually find some Hoosier Marine guard who was eager and knew a good route,’ says Helmke, who confesses to getting the Senator lost during a workout in Tokyo.”

A long-time fixture of the Capital Challenge, which is now sponsored by ACLI (as well as Roll Call), Lugar continued running into his sixth and final term in the Senate. He lost a primary bid last year to Republican Richard Mourdock, ending his Senate career.

  • Charles Green

    I can attest that Sen. Lugar has been running for many, many years

    In the late 1970s, when I was a reporter at States News Service, I did a
    story on how Lugar and several of his staff members would take a break
    during the day to run on the Mall. They’d keep track of their mileage on
    a chart in his Senate office in the Dirksen Building.

    At the time, running wasn’t nearly as popular as it is now, so the office competition was fairly novel.

    Looking for color for the story, I decided to run with them one day and
    interview the senator as we were jogging. But there were a few problems
    with my plan.

    One, I was wearing street clothes. I learned quickly that wingtips are not the best running shoes.

    Two, I tried to take notes as I ran alongside Lugar. As I discovered
    later when I inspected my notebook, they looked like they had been
    scrawled by a two-year-old.

    Three, I had to take photos for the story, which meant I would run alongside Lugar and his staff for a couple blocks getting my quotes, then sprint ahead of them, stop, take a picture, watch them pass by as I fumbled to get my gear together,sprint to catch up, get some more quotes, and then sprint ahead to take another picture.

    Not the best plan.

    Mitch Daniels, who was Lugar’s chief of staff at the time, still kids me whenever I run into him about my reporting method for the story.

    To the best of my recollection, Sen. Lugar barely broke a sweat.

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