2014 50 Most Beautiful

Celeste Wallander
Celeste Wallander
Hometown: 
Chicago
Age: 
53
Relationship Status: 
Married
Party Affiliation: 
Democratic

For Celeste Wallander, the only way to balance 14-hour days and intense working weekends amid unfolding international crises is to keep running. 

The senior director for Russia and Eurasia on the National Security Council has clocked three ultra-marathons, 36 marathons and more half-marathons than she can count. 

"I run every morning. I get up and run, just both because I love it, and I need it, and because I run distance races, and so I have to keep my training up," Wallander said.

A member of the Montgomery County Road Runners Club, the mother of three says her runs provide her not only with a chance to work out, but "a great excuse to go off for a couple of hours and just catch up and talk" with friends who also like to pound the pavement.

And sometimes, her runs even provide her a chance to get some face time with her boss.

During a July 2009 summit in Moscow, Wallander decided to get an early start by hitting the treadmill in the hotel gym. 

"I come down to the elevator to the basement floor, and there's all these guys in suits or Secret Service," Wallander said. "I thought, 'Huh, that's weird.' I walk into the gym and there's the president working out," she said. 

"I kind of went, 'I'm really sorry, sir,' " she said, but President Obama invited her in.

"He goes, 'Come on in, come on in.' So, I got on the treadmill, and I ran," she said.

When Wallander returned to her hotel room, she wrote her family an email with the subject line, "Another reason to get up and run in the morning.” 

"I wrote, ‘Guess what? He was running on the treadmill at one point, so I said I can actually say that I've run with the president,’ " she said.

— Justin Sink