Ark. Republican wins fastest lawmaker title

Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) won bragging rights as the fastest lawmaker at the annual ACLI Capital Challenge three-mile charity race on Wednesday morning.

Cotton, a former platoon leader with the 101st Airborne who received a Bronze Star, ran the course with a time of 17:55, according to official results.

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The freshman lawmaker was making his debut in the race, which has become a favorite of lawmakers over the years. At least 30 members ran Wednesday’s course. The money raised goes to the Wounded Warrior Project.

 Cotton told The Hill he was happy with his performance, saying he hit the “sweet spot” in terms of time.

“I was happy to be part of a good team,” said Cotton, who started running about 10 years ago, “and supporting a good cause.”

“Before I joined the Army, I started to run, which I hated as a younger man, to get in good physical condition,” he said. “And I found I enjoyed it, so I continued.”

Cotton runs every day in Washington, often on the National Mall or near the Potomac River.

His team, The Cotton Tail Rabbits, won the team award. The group was made up of staffers from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The race took place on a cool Wednesday morning in Anacostia Park along the Potomac. The rain held off until most of the runners finished the course.

Several race veterans returned — including Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), an avid runner who will turn 80 in September, and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), who kept her title as fastest female senator with a time of 26:44.

In addition, several freshman members made their race debuts, including Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Reps. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Marc Veasey (D-Texas), Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

Sinema was the fastest female House member at 25:13.

Also making his race debut was Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who was the fastest male senator and fastest senator overall, coming in at 24:47.

Portman said after the race, he had only been training for a month, as he prefers biking over running.

“I felt it today,” he said.

Portman took the title from Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who sat out this year due to an injury. He’s suffering from plantar fasciitis and hasn’t been able to run for several months.

But he was on hand to cheer on his team, in which his daughter was running.

Thune also held the finishing tape at the race’s finish, where Patrick Fernandez of the Coast Guard had the winning time with 14:43.

Thune joked he was replacing former Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) as the race’s senior senator. Lugar had run every race since its inception and even participated last year after his loss in the Republican Senate primary in Indiana, but was not on hand this year.

More than 800 runners ran in the race, which is celebrating its 32nd year. In addition to lawmakers, military service members, executive staffers and journalists participated.

Each team must include either one member of Congress, a member of the Cabinet, a sub-Cabinet agency head or equivalent, or a journalist.

Teams consist of five runners, at least one of whom must be a woman. All five runners count in scoring with awards going to teams and individual runners.

Ryan Hall, who has the fastest marathon time by an American, was the official whistle blower.

Jeff Darman, who helped start the race in 1981 and has organized it ever since, said his goal was to show that people in Washington can work together.

“I wanted to highlight that there are some very fit people in Washington and highlight some of the good,” he said.

“This is one of few times in Washington where people really get together and have a good time,” he added. “It’s friendly rivalry as opposed to not such friendly rivalry.”