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Bush Tells Staff to Make a Run for It

Times Staff Writer

President Bush knows how to turn up the heat on his staff.

Tugging at their pride, and perhaps straining their loyalty, the exerciser in chief presided Tuesday over the latest inductees into the 100-Degree Club -- the clique of White House aides brave (or perhaps gullible) enough to run three miles in the blazing August sun of central Texas.

The run, whose participants included new White House Press Secretary Tony Snow and a dozen or so other staffers, commenced around 4 p.m. -- exactly when local temperature readings hit the three-digit mark.

The prize for those who completed the exercise: a 100-Degree Club T-shirt and a photo with the president, along with a sunburn and a good story to tell friends back home.

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Bush, a one-time avid jogger who was forced to stop after developing knee problems in 2003, rode circles on his bicycle around the runners, offering playful taunts and encouragement.

“You can do it! Come on!” he told one aide as the group trotted along a path through the president’s 1,600-acre Prairie Chapel Ranch.

The run has been an annual event since the 2000 campaign, when Bush had a hankering to hit the trails no matter what the temperature.

“It was August and well over 100 degrees,” he told Runner’s World magazine in 2002. “We landed in Crawford, and I said that I had to go for a run. I knew if I didn’t get it in then, I’d never do it. So as I recall, there was a change of shift of the Secret Service agents. And I just told them that we should all go for a run right then. So both shifts of agents went right with me in the heat. And afterward, I had 100-Degree Club T-shirts and certificates printed up and gave ‘em away to everybody who went with me.”

This week’s run came during a 10-day respite from Washington that the White House has described as a working vacation. Since arriving here, Bush has devoted considerable time to policy matters, meeting with aides as his administration tries to forge a peace deal to halt the fighting in Israel and Lebanon.

On Monday, he broke from “ranch-casual” attire to appear in a gray suit before cameras to talk about the United Nations resolution, saying that the disarmament of Hezbollah was one piece of the war on terrorism that he called the “challenge of the 21st century.”

But staffers on Monday were buzzing about a different challenge -- the next day’s 100-degree run. Snow, whose workout routine at a Baylor University gym in Waco, Texas, lasts an hour and a half, prepared by chowing down a greasy burger on Monday from Crawford’s famous Coffee Station restaurant.

He predicted that the three-mile run might leave him a bit short of breath.

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“It’s going to be more of a pant-out,” he quipped when reporters asked for a readout on the 100-Degree Club. Then, as if considering how his words might be misconstrued, Snow added, “That does not refer to items of clothing.”


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