This morning, I ran a 5K with the candidates vying for presidential office in 2016.
See, I’ve added a 3.something-mile loop after my Tuesday morning exercise class. Because the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail is a crushed-granite, groomed pathway, the only variable each week as I circle Lady Bird Lake is my speed. Being somewhat of a lumbering mountain troll these days, I need a bit of distraction to take my mind off this lack of speed.
So as my feet move, my mind wanders. Today, I imagined inviting all the presidential hopefuls to lope along with me. Naturally, each would accept my invitation.
The run, to my mind, would go a little something like this….
Quite a crowd amasses for the Run with Leah Presidential Candidate 5K, and so it becomes necessary to create a two-wave start. Carly Fiorina, in full makeup and velour tracksuit, is peeved to find herself in the second wave. To protest, she pulls a group of unsuspecting kids into an impromptu Prancercise workout.
As I go over the 5K course, Chris Christie says he was blindsided by the route, denying any prior knowledge of the Pfluger Pedestrian bridge.
The rest of the second wave runners mingle about, a noisy rabble. A few simply fade away to grab a plate of Love Migas at Magnolia Cafe. Others opt for the shooting range.
In the first wave, Marco Rubio experiences a wardrobe malfunction when the zipper on his ankle-high Cuban-heeled leather boot becomes stuck. Rubio hurries to nearby Luke’s Locker in search of a pair of Hoka One Ones but, muttering about Obama and business, abandons his quest after learning the cushiony-soled shoes are manufactured by a French company.
Hillary Clinton grabs me in an enthusiastic “you go girl!” hug and yells, “Are you a fighter?!” We take a selfie, which she promises to email me later. Is she running? Clinton carefully dodges the question but ascertains this isn’t her first rodeo; I’ll see her again.
There’s quite a hubbub around Bernie Sanders, who’s sporting a “Feel the Bern” T-shirt and some vintage 1962 Keds. The candidate explains he’s mobilized a group of excited young people who’ve never run before to share in this people’s 5K. He plans to run for 100 yards and then…well, no one will be left behind.
About a mile in, nature calls for Ben Carson. As we run past, I point out the newly renovated unisex bathroom on the trail. He questions me closely: “How about we have a transgender bathroom? It’s not fair…to make everybody else uncomfortable.” I respond that I had not realized Carson was transgender, but reassure him that no one in Austin is going to feel uncomfortable if he just needs to pee, and he needn’t fear unjust discrimination based on his gender. Somehow, we quickly become separated.
As I start to climb the ramp toward the bridge, a sleek stretch limo pulls alongside on the road. Donald Trump sticks his head out the window, hair immobile in the breeze. “You’re disgusting!” he taunts. I spit back, “You’re not even running!” Trump responds with bravado: “I could shoot somebody and still win this race!” Afraid that the helicopter circling overhead is Sarah Palin with a hunting rifle, I sprint, clocking my fastest split.
As we cross the Pfluger Bridge, I explain to Ted Cruz that a light-hearted “Tug of Honor” between North and South Austinites took place near this very spot, with losers pulled into Lady Bird Lake. Cruz isn’t amused and posits that people would’ve taken that North/South border divide more seriously if North Austin had been trying to best suburbanites after their jobs instead of a bunch of Bubbas, hippies, and musicians.
I close on Jeb Bush as a huge roar erupts from the sidelines. Who are all these people? Why, it’s the extended Bush clan, out to rally for Jeb. A minor scuffle breaks out as family members grab the limelight: George W. recounts the time he was almost run over while jogging this very route, dad George H. hawks his new book, and mom Barbara testily queries, “Where is that man who talks about how popular he is?”
In the final mile, some guy jumps in a la Rosie Ruiz. Is it one of the second wave runners, desperate to make a splash? He looks suspiciously like is-he-a-candidate Michael Bloomberg. Yup; I know it’s Bloomberg when a cadre of Austin American-Statesman writers and editors chase behind, begging the billionaire philanthropist, “Please save our jobs — buy our paper!”
After crossing the MoPac bridge, I glance at my watch. Dang, what a slow 5K. But Clinton, waiting for me at the finish, has a prepared response. She tells me not to worry.
“Let’s build on what we have,” she says when I complain about getting older and slower. “We have been moving,…thankfully, in a positive, progressive direction. Maybe not as fast as some hope, but we keep moving forward.”
And then Clinton whisks me off to Chipotle for a quick burrito bowl and scheduled discussion on her four-point strategy for equal purses for male and female race winners.
It could happen.