Bishop outran 12 Chinese agents
A LIBERAL, a National and a Labor politician each pull on a pair of running shoes.
No, this isn't the start of some bad joke - but rather an intriguing insight into a part of Canberra life that you probably haven't seen before.
Every morning during a sitting week of parliament in the nation's capital, if you're up early enough, you're almost guaranteed to spot some of the most powerful figures in politics.
At the crack of dawn - even in the dead of those brisk winters - they jump out of bed, put on their trainers and hit the pavement to rack up some serious kilometres, blow out the cobwebs of the previous and prepare for another round of battle in the Chamber.
On paper, former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Labor's Assistant Treasury spokesman Andrew Leigh and Minister for Veterans' Affairs Darren Chester don't have a huge amount in common in an ideological sense.
But the three are each keen runners, having taken part in marathons here and internationally or run through some of the most spectacular cities in the world.
"I typically run every morning and it would only be a very early morning flight or meeting that would prevent me from doing it," Ms Bishop told news.com.au.
"I wake up, put on my running gear straight away and go for a run. It's like cleaning your teeth."
Having clocked up more than 110 international trips while Australia's representative to the world, Ms Bishop described running as both a great way to see a new city and a sure-fire jet lag cure.
"Whatever time I would arrive in a new destination, I'd get up at 5.30 in the morning and run to trick my body into thinking it was running time," she said.
"Seeing a city at dawn is really quite special. Otherwise, so much of my days was spent in meetings or conferences, in cars to and from the hotel or the airport … you don't get to pick up the vibe of a place."
She has run through peaceful pre-dawn streets in New York, lapped a park in London with Boris Johnson, given her bodyguard conniptions by venturing out in Kuwait and braved the freezing cold of Slovenia.
"We've had some fantastic runs around the world, a lot of the big cities, but also in the islands of the Pacific and through PNG, even on the streets of Jakarta, which would give my security detail quite a headache," Ms Bishop said.
One of her more memorable foreign running experiences was in Beijing, when local authorities allocated her a park to pelt around while in town on official business.
"There was an assumption, clearly, that I would perhaps walk briskly at a sedate pace, because when I arrived the security detail they had assigned me comprised 12 young men dressed in suits and leather shoes," Ms Bishop laughed.
"I started running and they followed behind, running in pairs, and I kept running and running and running. By the end of it, they were utterly exhausted. They realised I was serious.
"The next day when I turned up, all 12 of them were decked out in brand new running gear."
While Ms Bishop likes to runs for fitness, Dr Leigh has become fond of competition and "accidentally fell into marathons" back in 2015.
A few months ago, he completed what's known as the Big Six - a circuit of the best-known big city marathons around the world in New York, London, Boston, Berlin, Tokyo and Chicago.
He checked off the final milestone in the latter, although he wasn't thrilled with his effort.
"Chicago was the toughest one for me. I went into it with a back injury and I hit the wall part-way through and struggled home with a bit of grit and a fairly high pain threshold," Dr Leigh said.
Dr Leigh is a supporter of the Indigenous Marathon Project - a leadership initiative founded by Rob de Castella that encourages young people to get into serious running and teaches community building skills along the way.
The highlight of Chicago - his 3:33:57 finish time aside - was completing it with a project participant named Charlie.
"Charlie passed me at about the 30-kilometre point, ruffled my hair and told me to stay strong. It was a reminder that I wasn't out there for me, but for the Indigenous Marathon Project."
When Mr de Castella approached him about the initiative in 2014, he was only too happy to offer his support.
"I thought it was a fantastic leadership program for young indigenous Australians, but inadvertently it managed to get a white politician into marathon running along the way," Dr Leigh laughed.
His best marathon finish time was in Tokyo in 2017 with 2:42:48, followed closely by Berlin the same year with 2:43:23.
Five of the six efforts saw him finish under three hours - a feat praised by Mr Chester, who often crosses running paths with Dr Leigh of a morning in Canberra.
"He's an extraordinary runner. His run times are well under three hours in a marathon, which is exceptional," Mr Chester told news.com.au.
Although the government minister isn't too bad himself, having notched up an impressive total of 20 marathons over the years, including the past 13 consecutive Melbourne Marathons.
"Oh yeah, they're pretty addictive things," he said about that number.
"Although, if you ask someone at the 30-kilometre mark of a marathon if they're keen to do another, the answer would probably be no. But 30 minutes after, they'll say yes, guaranteed.
"It's a great personal challenge. You feel some level of satisfaction to hit the finish line."
In the middle of his preparation for last year's marathon, Mr Chester found himself in the Middle East on ministerial business. But he wasn't willing to fall behind on his fitness, so he trained in Kabul in Afghanistan and Baghdad in Iraq.
"Running in Baghdad is scorchingly hot," he said - something of an understatement about the war-torn city where the mercury often passes 40 degrees.
"You want to be out by 5.30 in the morning to avoid the worst of the heat. I did runs with a couple of the army guys and it was good to have a chat to them as we were running along."
All three say running is a great source of calm during sitting weeks - a way to start the day off on the right foot, no pun intended, and prepare for the ferocity of parliament to come.
Mr Chester avoids music while running so he can be alone with his thoughts and ponder any challenges or issues that are on the agenda.
"I find myself quite often thinking about work while I'm running, coming up with answers to potential Question Time problems or media issues. It's a great time to think without interruption."
Ms Bishop agrees, revealing that she often found solutions to "seemingly insurmountable" difficulties in the Foreign Affairs space while on a morning run.
"I have some of my best thoughts when I'm running," she said.
"Some major problems, suddenly a solution will come. I've had new ideas for speeches. I've found it to be a great way to spend some time reflecting on things."
And when she was abroad, running was a way to build a different kind of rapport with her counterparts, as well as Australia's many foreign diplomats.
"And I loved running with staff from our embassies of high commissions too. It's such a great way to get to know people."
During one visit to Mozambique, Ms Bishop was told about a volcano with a running track around the base of it that she instantly became fond of.
"A local journalist requested an interview but the schedule was so tight and it was going to be impossible. The only free time was during a very early morning run, so she joined me.
"She would run along for 100 metres and ask a question or two, then stop and wait for me to lap back around, run another 100 metres for more questions, then stop. It was fantastic fun."
Most of the time in Canberra, Ms Bishop is out and about incredibly early and doesn't often come across other pavement-pounding pollies.
But Dr Leigh and Mr Chester see each other all the time, as well as the large number of other MPs and staffers who are equally passionate about a morning run.
"Darren and Alan Tudge are often out and about and I'll see them quite often," Dr Leigh said. "Bill Shorten and Matt Thistlethwaite from my side of the parliament run all the time too."
The sheer simplicity of running makes it a popular option for the realities of public life, when time at home is limited and allows little opportunity for other organised sports.
"All you need to do is throw on your runners," Mr Chester said.
"No matter what city or country town you wake up in, you can find somewhere to go for a bit of exercise to start the day. I keep runners in each of my offices and at home so there are no excuses."