When Republican congressional candidate Dan Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL who sports an eye patch, completed a five-day, 100-mile run through his district, which includes a sizable chunk of Houston, in February, he live-streamed it on Facebook. The run was intended to raise money for Hurricane Harvey relief. But that wasn’t the sole reason. Crenshaw, in his early 30s, was attempting to drum up publicity for his campaign, too. The actual physical effort helped: Regarded as an underdog, he vanquished his opponents in Texas’s spring primary.
Across the aisle, Beto O’Rourke, the 46-year-old Democratic congressman who is looking to unseat Texas senator Ted Cruz—and may actually have a chance of doing so—has adopted a similarly energetic strategy to build momentum on the stump. Rather than engage in sedentary town halls where the adrenaline level is low, O’Rourke, who runs an eight-minute mile, is jogging alongside his supporters as he makes his way through the Lone Star State corralling votes. Both men, with divergent political views, have taken the art of campaigning to its extreme: They are literally running for office.
The two Texan hopefuls are not unique in their unorthodox approaches. There’s an emerging trend in politics in which more candidates are using fitness and exercise to frame their messaging and connect with voters. Why? Maybe because Americans have become more health-conscious, for one, and many candidates want to meet their potential constituents wherever they can—be it in the gym or on the track. (Men’s Health, it’s worth noting, may also have played a small part here when in 2011 we featured the now-disgraced congressman Aaron Schock, and his six-pack, on our cover.)