Bill Clinton's Running Habit: A Secret Service Nightmare

Clinton's desire to run in public was unpopular among secret service agents trying to protect him.

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President Bill Clinton no longer sports his legendary, scanty jogging shorts, but back when he ran, his healthy habit created one giant headache for his secret service detail.

In his new book, "Within Arm's Length: The Extraordinary Life and Career of a Special Agent in the United States Secret Service," Dan Emmett explains Clinton's insistence about jogging - serving as his temporary mental escape from the White House - was unpopular among the Secret Service members trying to protect him.

"He dealt us this nightmare," says Emmett. "The worst thing for the Secret Service is to take a sitting president into public when no one has been swept and anyone could be out there." [See a slide show of the 10 worst presidents.]

Emmett, who protected Clinton, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, recalls the presidential protective division tried everything to talk Clinton out of running in unsecured areas, including having a quarter-mile, state-of-the-art track installed along the perimeter of the White House grounds. Clinton tried it, didn't like it and requested that Secret Service come up with some running routes outside of the confines of the White House fence.

Emmett says a team suggested secure locations like Ft. McNair, but Clinton wanted even more freedom. He prioritized his running as not only a solution to keep pounds off, but also as a way to connect with voters.

"He is a people person. His running was for meeting the public as much as it was for exercise," Emmett says. [Obama Channels Clinton in State of the Union.]

The Secret Service eventually mapped out a few running routes that satisfied both their security requirements and the president's request. Emmett says Clinton would run the dirt trail on the National Mall, along the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial and along the Potomac.

Clinton jogged about three days a week, for no more than 37 minutes, and Emmett remembers it being a challenge to find Secret Service agents who could cover the jog with the president, carry a weapon and a radio, and still remain alert enough to protect him.

"Secret Service agents are generally fit, but we had to come up with a group of agents who were capable of running with the president. You couldn't just run and look at the ground. We needed people with reserve energy to be able to fight if need be."

Another issue that arose was the sheer number of random runners who wanted to join the president and Clinton's willingness to let them.

"He was very open. We were very wary of that," Emmett says. "We were concerned about what they really wanted to do. We would close in very tightly around him."

Of course, Clinton wasn't the only president taking risks. Emmett says George H.W. Bush's desire to play on public golf courses was also a cause for concern.

"There is all this open space, and you have other people playing, because you cannot just shut down the course."

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