Columns » John Brummett

Revenge of the flat-footed nerd

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There at curbside stood the columnist formerly referring to the governor as Wide Body, within 13 pounds of an all-time weight high himself, down again in the sacroiliac region to the point that intermittent pain radiates his lower reaches and a social game of tennis doubles poses a significant challenge. All of a sudden, earlier than expected, this governor formerly referred to as Wide Body, down from 280 about 20 months ago to 170, ran by at mile marker 14 in the 26.2-mile Little Rock Marathon. I told him way to go, and he responded in a friendly hello with a strong, clear voice. Then he looked at his watch and stopped jogging and started walking briskly. On the phone the next day, after not merely finishing the race but doing so with a time more than respectable, but good, Mike Huckabee explained. He said he spoke with a strong voice because that’s what was insisted upon by the training regimen he lived by religiously for seven months. If you couldn’t draw breath to speak clearly, you were going too fast and wouldn’t be able to finish, the book said. He stopped to walk, he said, not because he was tired, but because the book said to run 10 minutes and walk one. One day he trained by running eight miles. Another day he trained by traversing the same distance via the 10-to-1 run-walk ratio. He made better time by the run-walk system. He believed in the book, and the book carried him 26.2 miles. There are so many admirable aspects to this story. That must be why everyone from Oprah to me wants to hear it. Huckabee admits to being kind of a nerd in school. He’d play dodgeball and get hit first, then go do his homework. He got kicked out of college ROTC because his flat feet rendered his gait so impaired that he couldn’t march. Then, in June 2003, his doctor told him he had adult-onset diabetes and was, at 47, in the last decade of his life. That was, unless he did something about it. He began walking around the Governor’s Mansion. Then one day he decided to run to the corner, and the next time a little past the corner. Before long, his doctor was referring him to an athletic shoe store that studied his walk and special-ordered New Balance running shoes. “Not only did I find out I’d been wearing shoes of the wrong size,” he said, “but I was introduced to the idea of shoes that actually were comfortable.” Someone suggested he run in a local 5K because it was barely three miles and downhill. He made the mistake of talking about that possibility in a speech he didn’t think the press was covering. So, he had to do it. Then someone suggested he run the Little Rock Marathon, not only for himself but for the example he’d set to an overweight and unhealthy state. Huckabee looked at the training regimen, saw that it made sense and dared to go for it. Several days before the big day he ran 20 miles. “I came home and said, ‘I now know I can finish the marathon.’ ” Running 26.2 miles wasn’t the biggest pressure. Running the marathon as the once-fat governor was the biggest pressure. If he pulled out, the moral would become, “If you are fat, you can get skinny and train for a marathon. But you’ll never succeed.” He succeeded, as did his wife. Troubled by back problems, she walked all 26.2 miles. She was among the very last to finish, after seven hours. The chairs at the finish line had been folded up. There was no public address announcer extolling her final steps to a cheering crowd. She did it for herself, and maybe for the next person with a bad back who dares to spend most of a day’s sunlight putting one foot laboriously in front of another.

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