Pit the world’s leaders against each other over 5K and who comes out on top?

Understandably, the podium finishers have all been photographed running at some point in recent years. Included are not necessarily the leaders of the world’s most powerful countries but rather those most likely to be able to contend for, and in some instances fail to achieve, a top-10 spot in our political 5K.

Here’s speculation on how a select group of political world leaders would fare in a hypothetical race.

1. Justin Trudeau (Canada) – 20:59

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Justin Trudeau is indisputably the global political figure who is the most public about his love for running. Canada’s Runner-in-Chief regularly posts about his runs on social media, with his trusty staff photographer, Adam Scotti, documenting his every step (Scotti himself is also a dedicated runner). The Canadian PM ran an official 22:37 at the Canada Army Run in 2017 and a reported 23 minutes during a 5K at CFB Esquimalt in British Columbia. Trudeau often runs in the countries he visits including in Ireland, Italy and Cuba. The PM could probably hack an extra minute off his 5K time if it weren’t for all those selfie stops with fellow runners, or being surrounded by a phalanx of bodyguards.

And yes, there’s even video proof, in addition to photographic evidence, that Trudeau runs.

Justin Trudeau

Photo: Adam Scotti.

Justin Trudeau

Adam Scotti, PMO photo.

2. Enrique Pena Nieto (Mexico) – 22:20

Justin Trudeau Running

Photo: Adam Scotti.

Prior to helping make split shorts famous in Canada’s capital region during his crossing of Alexandra Bridge between Ottawa and Gatineau, Que., Enrique Pena Nieto has completed multiple 10Ks in less than 55 minutes including reported marks of 50:48, 54:08 and 52:34. Nieto’s 10K time of 50:48, according to Mercier tables, a measurement of converting performances to different distances, is worth a 22:20 5K. 

3. Leo Varadkar (Ireland) – 22:58

Justin Trudeau

Photo: Leo Varadkar/Twitter.

If Ireland’s Taoiseach (head of government), Leo Varadkar, is fit enough to keep pace with Trudeau on an evening run in Dublin, surely he’s fit enough to be in the conversation for our hypothetical 5K podium.

4. Lee Hsien Loong (Singapore) – 23:45

Lee Hsien Loong, the prime minister of Singapore, wears a JawBone, a type of activity tracker, and it’s estimated that the he puts in as many as 8,000 steps per day (roughly 6.5K, depending on stride length) and although that’s walking, time on your feet counts for something.

5. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Turkey) – 24:40

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Erdoğan played soccer for Kasimpasa before being elected President of Turkey in 1994. During each match, players run for upwards of 90 minutes (if they play the entire 90 minutes), in what could be called a fartlek workout (continuous running alternating hard and easy efforts). Players can hit upwards of 15K per game, perhaps the distance (and speed) necessary for a 5K.

6. Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović (Croatia) – 25:33

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The President of Croatia attended high school in Los Alamos, N.M., which is located at altitude, an environment often desired by runners in training. Who else attended Los Alamos High School? Multiple-time U.S. cross-country champion Lynn Bjorklund, 1976 national cross-country champion Ric Rojas and 1980 U.S. Marathon Olympic Trials champion Anthony Sandoval. Coincidence? Yes, actually it is.

7. Benjamin Netanyahu (Israel) – 25:55

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According to the Prime Minister of Israel’s medical report in 2015, “Prime Minister Netanyahu trains several times a week at a gym (treadmill and weights) and is in good physical condition.” The doctor concluded that Netanyahu was in “very good health.” In 2016, his health was deemed to be “excellent” though there was no mention of a running routine.

8. Dalia Grybauskaitė (Lithuania) – 27:55

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Dubbed “Iron Lady” as she has a black belt in karate, Grybauskaitė was a swimmer for more than 10 years in her youth. Although she may not have the aerobic capacity to run a 5K, she certainly has the toughness.

9. Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin (Russia) – 30:01 (tie)

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Those who work out together, finish together.

DNF: Donald Trump (United States)

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After asserting himself in the lead pack early, Trump depletes his finite energy stores and is forced to hail a cab to the finish line. No finishing time, no race medal. According to the New Yorker, some of Trump’s habits, including his sleep patterns and eating habits, are not runner-friendly. “Trump himself says that he is “not a big sleeper” (“I like three hours, four hours”) and professes a fondness for steak and McDonald’s. Other than golf, he considers exercise misguided, arguing that a person, like a battery, is born with a finite amount of energy.”

DQ: Kim Jong Un (North Korea) – 11:11

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At long last, Kenenisa Bekele’s world record in the men’s 5,000m of 12:37.35 was believed to be broken. Unfortunately, Kim Jong Un’s time was so farfetched that it lead to intense scrutiny among the running community. Soon after, it was discovered that his timing chip, the only proof of what would have been a record, “malfunctioned.” Kim Jong Un’s initial clocking should come as no surprise as incredible athletic feats run in the family. (The late Kim Jong Il claims to have shot a 38-under par 34, including five aces, round of golf.)


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