WASHINGTON — When it comes to running in the nation’s capital, most think of running for the Senate or the House, especially with the 2018 midterms in November looming.
But on a crisp Sunday morning, the Capitol Hill Competition within the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run was the only race on congressional staffers’ minds.
The Capitol Hill Competition has run for 17 years, with proceeds of the event going towards the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Since 2002, the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run has raised more than $8 million.
While the donations go towards a good cause, it doesn’t come without a healthy dose of competition.
There are two divisions for House and Senate teams, and in each division there are two different winners: the fastest team, and the best team name.
The fastest team wins by having the top three runners per team combining times. The lowest time wins. The best name is determined by sending the House names to the Congressional Federal Credit Union and the Senate names to the United States Senate Federal Credit Union. The team name with the most votes wins and receives a plaque.
Votes are still being counted for this year’s best team name, but some contenders include “Booker T(eam) Washington” for Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, and “We Put the B.O. in C.B.O” from the Congressional Budget Office.
“I know there’s a big trophy,” said Russell Page, a speechwriter for Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, and the coach for three teams from the senator’s office.
Page and one of his teams, Heinrich Maneuver, won the race portion of the Capitol Hill Competition this year, and Page finished in under an hour, which was one of his goals for this race.
Winners display the Capitol Cup trophy for a year in their office, and maintain bragging rights on the Hill.
Last year in the Senate bracket, a team for Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, won with the fastest time at 3:21:35, and the best name went to “How the West Was Run,” representing the office of Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado.
For the House bracket, staffers running for Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, won last year with a time of 3:18:15, and the best team name went to “It’s a Doggett Dogg World,” from the office of Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas.
Lawmakers can have as many teams of five members each as they want, resulting in names that aren’t just puns on a senator’s or House member’s name.
One of Heinrich’s teams, Los Pollos Hermanos, comes “from Breaking Bad, kind of the most famous pop-culture from New Mexico,” said Page. Before using the name “All the Kings Men,” King’s team used the name “‘We Moustache You A Question’ in reference to the senator’s moustache,” said legislative correspondent Andy Fitch.
Some staffers are involved in the race because they ran in college. Page ran for Claremont Mudd Scripps, then kept it up because working on the Hill can be stressful and he wanted to do “something away from the desk everyday.”
Page trained for the race by running during his lunch hour. “I’ve kind of gotten it down to a science to change, run five miles around the monuments, come back, shower, change, since I can do that all in a lunch hour,” said Page.
But others come to running through different avenues.
“Our office has an interesting tradition of running races as part of Senator King’s team, going back to the senator’s election campaign in 2012,” Fitch said.
“There was a large group of volunteer interns working on the campaign, including me, and many of us were interested in pursuing some alternative methods for our ‘Get Out The Vote’ effort. One of the fun approaches we settled on was running road races and triathlons while representing Senator King; during those events we would wear shirts that said ‘Angus King is running for U.S. Senate, and I’m running for Angus.’”
No matter what their athletic backgrounds, the teams come together to bond outside the office and cheer each other on, which Page said is “almost as much fun as running it.”
In King’s office, that first run lead to “the start of a fun tradition of office participation in athletics that continues to this day,” Fitch said.