Friday Five: 5 Presidents Who Doubled as Outdoor Athletes

In honor of President’s Day on Feb. 18, we thought we would take a look at a lesser-known side of the presidency. We recognize the names of our 44 presidents and maybe some of their actions in office, but few know any for their athletic abilities. By now, most of us know of Barack Obama’s love of basketball, and the Bush family’s love of baseball, but what about our favorite outdoor sports? Here’s a look at five presidents who took the time to get out of the Oval Office in the spirit of physical fitness.

1. Abraham Lincoln

His wrestling exploits are well-known, but some claim that Lincoln was one of the first multisport athletes in United States history. Legend has it that in 1831, Honest Abe accepted the challenge of a multisport event of running, wrestling, and fighting. In true Lincoln fashion, he defeated all three of his opponents. This story has now become the inspiration for a triathlon series in central Illinois, where athletes traverse the area that Lincoln called home.

2. Teddy Roosevelt

When he wasn’t busting trusts or flexing his political muscles worldwide, Roosevelt was an outdoorsman. He was a renowned hunter, a top boxer, an avid fisherman, an expert on a horse, and so much more. TR was known to also go for an occasional evening swim in Washington’s Rock Creek… naked. Roosevelt’s policies also created the U.S. Forest Service, part of his focus on natural conservation. His athletic abilities and love for the outdoors was unprecedented at the time, and has gone unmatched since.

3. Gerald Ford

Most Michiganders probably know about Ford’s success as a member of the University of Michigan football teams in the 1930s. But as president, Ford made it a daily ritual of his to stay active and involve himself in outdoor sports. Ford swam daily in office, and following a 1968 vacation to the Rocky Mountains, became a promotor for world-class alpine skiing in Colorado. He skied regularly, served on the board of the Vail Valley Foundation, and was inducted into the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame.

4. Jimmy Carter

In office, Carter stressed the importance of the environment, and passed numerous pieces of legislature that protected and preserved American soil. So it was only fitting that Carter enjoyed his time outdoors. While at the Naval Academy, Carter ran cross-country for one of the Navy’s finest teams. At point in the season, the future president ran a close-to 2-mile course in just 10:33. Carter was frequently been spotted on his bike during his presidency, and can still be seen riding around his hometown of Plains, Ga.

5. George W. Bush

As stated earlier, the Bush family has a special love for baseball. George H.W. Bush excelled as the first baseman of Yale’s team, and that love was passed down to his son, who at one point co-owned the Texas Rangers. But Bush is also a runner–he is the only Commander-in-Chief to complete a marathon (though he wasn’t at the time), running the 1993 Houston Marathon in 3:44:52. Bush still runs recreationally, enjoys biking, and has even bench-pressed 185 five times, which is more than NBA star Kevin Durant could do before entering the league in 2007.

Regardless of political affiliation, these five presidents can make outdoor athletes proud. One non-presidential honorable mention to get in there: Paul Ryan’s time of a “2-hour and 50-something” marathon.

Happy Friday!

Featured image photo courtesy of National Archives/Getty Images

 

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