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May 23, 2013

Are you faster than Al Roker? Celebrity Marathoners Past and Future

Written by Dena Evans
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chicago1The popularity of marathon running has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 20-30 years, and boldfaced names have increasingly taken up the challenge as well. Like a lot of us, they often run for a cause, and some even have hit some pretty quick paces along the way.  Where do your favorite stars stack up?

Politicians

Last election cycle, Representative Paul Ryan’s marathon time made a lot of headlines (real time: Grandma’s Marathon 1990, 4:01), but he is far from the only politician on either side of the aisle to have completed the full 26.2.  Other marathoners with an eye on the White House or the Vice Presidency have included Al Gore (1997 Marine Corps Marathon, 4:54), Sarah Palin (2005 Humpy’s Marathon, 3:59), John Edwards, (1983 Marine Corps Marathon 3:30), and George W. Bush (1993 Houston Marathon, 3:44).  Surpassing them all in the governmental division, however, are former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who clocked in a solid Boston Qualifier at 3:03 in the 1989 Marine Corps Marathon, as well as retiring Montana Senator Max Baucus, who smoked a 3:01 at the 1982 Governor’s Cup Marathon.

Movie / TV Stars

“Stars!  They’re just like US,” scream the tabloid pages.  However, how much is your favorite screen star like you on the race course?  Green Lantern actor Ryan Reynolds stepped up with a 3:20 at the 2008 New York Marathon, while Katie Holmes clocked in at 5:29 at the 2007 five-borough event. Fellow teen television star Mario Lopez went from a 5:41 finish at the 2002 Boston Marathon all the way down to a 4:23 at the 2011 New York Marathon.  Famously, TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey also ran the 1994 Marine Corps Marathon in 4:29, putting a significant margin on the popular Today show meteorologist Al Roker, who clocked in at a 7:09 in the 2010 New York Marathon.   Celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay has run several marathons, including the 2008 London Marathon in 3:19, and even Rudy (Sean Astin) has joined in, completing the 2010 Los Angeles event in 5:16 before improving to 4:26 the following year.

Musicians

Does having a golden throat or nimble fingers help you make it across the finish line any faster?  It depends.  David Lee Roth completed the 2010 edition of New York in 6:04.  P Diddy also ran New York in 2003 on a very truncated training schedule, still hustling to the finish in 4:14.  Representing the hipsters, Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) completed the 2011 Los Angeles Marathon in 3:56, while songstress Alanis Morrissette has a 4:28 in 2009 in New York to her credit as well as a 4:17 trail marathon effort from the 2009 Bizz Johnson event.  Welsh classical singer Katherine Jenkins also competed at London this year, coming home in 5:26.

Athletes from other Sports

Those who have completed a marathon have one year left to claim they are faster than Mo Farah (the 2012 Olympic gold medalist at 5000 and 10,000 meters; he ran only half of London this year as a practice run).  With other celebrity athletes, we may not be so lucky.  Star athletes from other disciplines who have completed a marathon include 1996 gold medal winning gymnast Kerri Strug (presumably with two good ankles and without Bela Karolyi carrying her), who did the 2008 New York Marathon in 3:56.   Without ice or skates, hockey great Mark Messier and speed skater Apolo Ohno both did New York in 2011, with finishing times of 4:14 and 3:26 respectively.  New York Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer took on the same course in 2010, running 4:13.  Interestingly in his case, a charity partnership with Timex had him start as the very final person in the race, with incentives for how many people he was able to pass along the way.  Across the pond, tennis great Amelie Mauresmo ran right by her old stomping grounds at Roland Garros in the 2012 Paris Marathon, hitting a solid 3:16 on the finishing clock, while Olympic champion swimmer Summer Sanders finished this year’s Boston in 3:33, and World Cup winning soccer player Brandi Chastain earned a 4:08 in the 2008 New York Marathon alongside Strug.

Stars who should run a marathon

The growing list of celebrities attempting the marathon begs the question:  “Who should be next?”  For the sake of argument, and in the context of the running done while on screen, here are a few potential training recruits:  Tom Cruise (let’s see what he’s got – there is always at least one scene of him running at full speed in all of his movies), Angelina Jolie (as Lara Croft, Tomb Raider), Daniel Craig (as James Bond), Tom Hanks (as Forrest Gump), Regina King (as Lydia Adams on Southland, yes, but as Marcee Tidwell from Jerry Maguire, no), and Benedict Cumberbatch (either as Sherlock running to solve crimes or Khan from Star Trek: Into Darkness, running from Zachary Quinto as Spock, but most definitely not as Christopher Tietjens in Parade's End).

Who knows?  These names only represent a few of the famous faces you might encounter on your next marathon attempt. Keep an eye out on the course and a smile on – you never know who might be grabbing the cup next to you at the fluid station!

Last modified on June 17, 2013
Dena Evans

Dena Evans

Dena Evans joined runcoach in July, 2008 and has a wide range of experience working with athletes of all stripes- from youth to veteran division competitors, novice to international caliber athletes.

From 1999-2005, she served on the Stanford Track & Field/ Cross Country staff. Dena earned NCAA Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year honors in 2003 as Stanford won the NCAA Division I Championship. She was named Pac-10 Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2003-04, and West Regional Coach of the Year in 2004.

From 2006-08, she worked with the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative, helping to expand the after school fitness programs for elementary school aged girls to Mountain View, East Menlo Park, and Redwood City. She has also served both the Stanford Center on Ethics and the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession as a program coordinator.

Dena graduated from Stanford in 1996.

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