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Mayor Emanuel with his son, Zach, at the 2012 Chicago Triathlon

Emanuel biking

Emanuel swimming

Fit to Lead

Mayor Emanuel opens up about his love for triathlon.

As the sun’s rising and many of us are still stirring in our beds, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is up and at ’em. But that doesn’t mean he’s leading daybreak meetings. For the last 30 years, Emanuel has been up at 5:30am to log laps in the pool.

“5:30 in the morning, sunshine,” he says. “I am religious about it.”

His staff members know it, too. “If you screw with my workout… it’s just not worth it!”

Emanuel hits the water on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. A few years ago he added cycling—“I swim a mile and then I bike a little shy of four on the stationary,” he says.

He also runs. If that sounds suspiciously like a triathlon, you’re onto something.

For the mayor, doing tri- is a particularly effective way, he jokes, of warding off middle age. “What a way to challenge your midlife crisis!” he says with a laugh.

Other racers can expect to find him competing in the Sprint Distance, which includes a .75K swim, 22K bike and 5K run.

Like many triathletes with type A personalities, the mayor can get a little competitive when it comes to stats. What’s your swim? How fast is your bike? What’s your run pace per mile? If your times are faster than his, you might hear this response: “I shouldn’t have been so cocky when I asked that question!”

The mayor’s triathlon feats are not remotely shabby, though, and the 53-year-old is competitive in his bracket. In 2011 he finished ninth in his age group on an August day when high winds made for challenging conditions, especially during the Lake Michigan swim. The lake was choppy that day, causing Emanuel to finish his swim more than three minutes slower than usual. However, he says, “[Normally] the water is the perfect temperature for capacity; you don’t have a current or anything like that—it’s fabulous.”

So is the mayor looking to PB (personal best) any time soon? You just might see him racing next summer when Chicago hosts the International Triathlon Union’s World Triathlon Series, which will bring top athletes to town and put the city in the spotlight. After all, Mayor Emanuel will be the first person to tell you how perfect this city is at playing host. “This is a world-class competition, so we’ll add to [our reputation] as a city that can host major sporting events,” he says. “Nothing more symbolizes what a sports town we are.”

Well... we might be able to think of one thing.

Fast Facts
A few keys to Mayor Emanuel’s triathlon success.

He swims a mile three days a week. “I’m a 29-minute-er,” he says.

He rides a custom-fit road bike from Parlee, a company that prides itself on building top-performing carbon fiber race bikes.

Training with family can keep one motivated. At the 2012 Life Time Chicago Triathlon, he crossed the finish line with his son, Zach.