Members of Congress show competitive side outside of the Capitol in 5k race

Story and photo by Silvia Rodriguez

To read story at the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire and to see photo slide show, click here.

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Runners Patrick Fernandez, Brandon Cherry and David Burnham approach the finish line Wednesday just before the 15-minute mark. They finished first, second and third in the American Council of Life Insurers Capital Challenge race that pits the branches of government and the media against each other. SHFWire photo by Silvia Rodriguez

WASHINGTON – Members of Congress took the debate to a different type of floor – an asphalt path, to be specific – Wednesday morning. Trading in their suits for running gear, they raced to put an end to the question of which is the fastest branch of government.

Joined by officials from the executive and judicial branches as well as journalists, senators and representatives participated in the American Council of Life Insurers Capital Challenge, a 5 km race along the Anacostia River that raised money for the Wounded Warrior Project.

Most of the 734 registered runners competed in teams representing their branch or media. The race began at 8 a.m. when Olympic runner and celebrity athlete Ryan Hall blew the whistle.

Supporters lined the sides of the track with posters showing encouraging words in colorful lettering.

“I came to cheer on the PBS ‘NewsHour’ team!” said Laura Sciuto, 26, a PBS employee who showed her support for the 14 runners on the “NewsHour” team by holding a red, white and blue poster with the words “Run NewsHour, Run!”

Lt. j.g. Patrick Fernandez, 26, a Coast Guard operations and weapons officer, was the first to cross the finish line in 14 minutes and 44 seconds.

“Last year was my first time running it, and I wasn’t able to pull up first last year, but I was glad I got to come out and give it my all and get a victory for the Coast Guard this year,” he said.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, was the fastest senator, beating the fastest female senator, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., by two minutes. But Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., beat them both by almost seven minutes. The fastest journalist was Blake Whitney of the Washington Business Journal.

The executive branch leads in fittest team titles, with 23 wins since 1982, the first year the race was held. That title goes to the five-member team with the fastest overall time. The legislative branch and the media are tied with four wins, and the judicial branch has yet to be deemed the fittest.

The most creative part of the race is not found on the track, however. Team names have long been recognized as either the best or worst, inspiring team members to come up with witty and comical phrases to represent their running group.

Led by Howard Hogan, chief demographer from the Census Bureau, team “Broken Down by Age & Sex” took the plaque for best name. The team led by Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., “Swall’s Well That Ends Well,” did not do as well the members hoped, taking the title for this year’s worst name. Both teams were awarded a plaque and a pair of commemorative socks.

Although rivalry has always fueled the Capital Challenge, it is always in good fun.

“I think it’s a friendly rivalry, it’s a good opportunity to get all the various branches of government and the media together and just come out for a day of fun and fitness,” Fernandez said.

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