Running for Office | Politicians’ fondness for the ‘Common Jog’

Britain's politicians love being seen going for a run. Why? And do other countries do the same?

Jeremy Hunt Michael Gove Liz Truss Boris JohnsonRunning For Office

Britain’s politicians love being seen going for a run. Their methods and motives may vary, but under the common jog, they unite. Why is this? And do other countries do the same? Archie Brydon investigates.

Britain’s maiden chancellor-in-chief has begun his first few days in office with a jog. Accompanied by his dog, Jeremy Hunt emerges from his front door into a throng of photographers, wearing a feigned 'Fancy seeing you here’ expression, before setting off into what is still the dead of night. 

Jeremy Hunt jogging

Jeremy Hunt going for a run

It’s good content, I will admit. 

You’ve got the dog, you’ve got the fitness, you’ve got the productivity – look at Jez, working away while the rest of the world sleeps! – and as sports go, jogging is about as inoffensive as it gets. You’re not going to trundle over a kid like Boris, mix your West Hams with your Aston Villas like Cameron, or surely piss off some portion of the UK population by doing almost anything else. Jogging is simple and harmless. Just put one foot in front of the other and smile. Good optics await.

And yet, despite the simplicity of the ordinary jog, we are talking about a multidimensional tool employed by many politicians before Hunt, with varying motivations in mind and degrees of success. 

boris running

Let’s start with the nation’s ex (well, at the time of writing), who has mastered the common jog to great effect. Boris Johnson has gone so far as making it one of the definitive acts in his jesterish routine, resorting to a jog, for example, when facing the music having cheated on his wife for the somethingteenth time (only that time he lied to Michael Howard about it) and again to make, or deflect, a few headlines at last year’s Tory conference.

Boris uses the common jog for comedy. It is the opposite desired effect with Hunt, who uses it to demonstrate competence. Take the latter’s sleek, probably Lululemon attire, compared to Boris’ aesthetic eccentricities; beanies unable to contain his platinum mop meet comically bad swimming trunks and occasionally even a formal white shirt. Deliberately goofy, Boris jogging is disarming and distracting, a remarkable sight at which you cannot help but smile. His fitness push post-Covid has been slightly more conventional in appearance and perhaps partly genuine, though a wee dog’s been dug out for more recent forays through the park.

Truss jogging across Brooklyn Bridge in New York SIMON DAWSONNO10 DOWNING STREET


This brings us to the current (well, at the time of writing) Prime Minister. Liz Truss has been known to enjoy being seen jogging. A wonderfully candid photo of her prancing over the Brooklyn Bridge perfectly encapsulates the good old days of plane hopping and photo-opping when Truss was Britain’s post-Brexit international trade minister and then foreign secretary. Britain meets the world in the shape of Liz Truss. The image of Lizzy lately hasn’t been quite as flattering.

Another keen-to-be-seen jogger is the present leader of the ‘plottisition’, Michael Gove. Unlike Truss, Gove keeps his running to the streets of London – or, more accurately, his singular street of London. The Times once reported he ran from his front door to the corner, walked around on his phone for a while, and then reappeared jogging back to his front door. He was holding his phone and car keys the whole time. 

Look, there’s nothing wrong with not having the stamina; there’s only one way to improve it; I’m not shaming anyone for exercising; etc. etc. Sadly for Mr Gove, however, even when pretending to run happily, his act falls painfully between the desirable optics of Hunt and Johnson: neither athletic enough to inspire the competence of Hunt nor silly enough to generate the humour of Johnson. Michael Gove’s jogging just makes him look a bit pathetic.

Before this lot, Cameron and Blair didn’t mind a light jog. Keir Starmer’s athletic escapades are occasional and rather bland when they do appear. Ed Milliband and Jeremy Corbyn were both seen out and about, stretching their legs, but neither looked particularly natural nor did Gordon Brown. This leaves only Theresa May – a once universally unpopular leader enjoying something of a post-No.10 reputation boost – who might have bound through a field of wheat in her youth but has never pandered to public opinion with an on-camera display of exercise. In this sense, among leading British politicians of the 21st century at least, Theresa May is rare.

Michael Gove jogging

Michael Gove

What about elsewhere in the world? Bill Clinton was known to enjoy being seen going for a run. So, too, was Sarkozy and occasionally George W. Bush. Yet, on the whole, it seems other nation’s leaders like being snapped during more strength-inducing workouts. Obama loved a gym session and a spot of basketball. Mr. Zelensky loves a bicep curl. Narendra Modi likes a bit of yoga and core work. Imran Khan is Imran Khan. Leaving Vladimir Putin, the Russian strongman, as fond of flexing a pectoral as he is a branch of his armed forces. His issue is that this year we’ve learnt one is much weaker than it looks (I’m afraid I can’t attest to his pecs). 

Yet we Brits like our politicians to jog. I wonder if it says something about our national psyche, some subconscious trait I’m wildly unqualified to diagnose. Whatever the case, I enjoy that we see through the facade of the common jog, and yet they keep trying anyway.

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