Runners head out in the first mile of the ACLI Capital Challenge May 21 in Anacostia Park. Photo: Charlie Ban

Runners head out in the first mile of the ACLI Capital Challenge May 21 in Anacostia Park. Photo: Charlie Ban

A lot of federal and media employees found out what their coworkers looked like in shorts at the ACLI Capital Challenge.

Results The annual three-mile run, a staple of many offices in Washington, featured strong individual performances from the Executive Branch, with Coast Guard’s Patrick Fernandez edging House aide Paul Balmer, and Erin Taylor of the General Services Administration outlasting Rachel Beckmann, another Coast Guard team member. The out-and-back course in Anacostia Park featured a slight headwind after the turnaround. Both Fernandez and Taylor train with the Capital Area Runners. Balmer lead Rep. Earl Blumenauer‘s (D-Ore.) Red White and Blumenauer team to the House championship for the fifth consecutive year.

Taylor recruited four other GSA employees to join the Human “Capitol” Running Club.

“Everyone runs, in some capacity, but I think this is the first time we’ve had a GSA team,” she said. “We didn’t a chance to train together because we entered the team so late, but I’m hoping we have a few teams next year and will do some group runs.”

Some runners surprise their colleagues with hidden talents. Jake Berube, who led the Daily Caller team (the Daily Ballers) to a second place finish in the Print Media division, was the “surprise fast guy” on his team that included a former collegiate runner. Though he was on the track team at the University of Southern Maine, he was a decathlete, with the longest running event spanning a mile. That’s where he started.
“I ran the first mile really fast and I was just trying to survive the rest of the way,” he said.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) looks ahead to the race every spring.

“Everyone on my staff loves to run, and in order for them to run, I have to run, so two months before this race, I start running again,” he said. Members of Congress have to participate in the race for their offices to field teams. “I’m 58 years old, so my knees and the back aren’t great, but I try to run every two days. I always hope to run eight-minute miles.”

The junior senator clocked just over 8:20 pace on his way to a 25:04 finish, for the top male finish in the upper house. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) was the top female senator, in 35:15. Portman finishes jsut ahead of Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) the top female representative.

Portman’s Communications Director Caitlin Dunn said most of her colleagues were active runners, with many completing the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run, the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half Marathon and the Philadelphia Marathon.

Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) was not only the fastest male representative, at 39th place out of 667, he was one of the fastest runners overall. His title came a day after he earned his party’s nomination for this year’s Senate race.

“I try to run most mornings, wherever I am,” he said. “Arkansas is a great state for running, with the mountains, the river valleys, the plains. Between deployments, I was was stationed in Arlington, so I’ve gotten used to running here, too. I can be the fastest man in Congress, but if I was still in the Army, my soldiers would just call me a slow old man,” he said.

Recently-confirmed U.S. Circuit Court Judge Nina Pillard won the women’s Judicial Branch title in 23:20. She gathered three of her clerks and one of her fellow judge’s clerks to form a team, after D.C. Circuit Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh told her about the competition shortly after she was confirmed. Kavanaugh’s team led the Judicial standings.

“We chose our team on eagerness,” she said. “We didn’t train together, but we exchanged plenty of emails about running to get ready for this.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert Okun was the first male judge across the line in 20:47.

Nine-year-old Annie ran the race with her mom, All Things Considered Producer Justine Kenin. Annie is third-generation Capital Challenge, following in the footsteps of James Kenin, whose name now adorns the award for worst team name (WUSA-News Your Daddy won this year). NPR sported approximately 50 runners, making it one of the largest contingents at the race.

“She knew I ran this every year and she asked to do it last year,” Kenin said. “I told her she could only run if she trained for it.”

Annie felt it was one of her better races, riding high off of Saturday’s Girls on the Run 5k, the culminating event for her elementary school training group.

“I like running with my mom and my friends,” she said. “This wasn’t my best race, but it was pretty good.”

When she shared her motivational strategies, it sounded akin to what a lot of coworkers might have said to each other before grabbing a danish and heading back to the office.

“A lot of them break down and say they can’t do it,” Annie said. “I tell them, ‘don’t say can’t, because can’t never helps anything.'”