LITTLE ROCK – Nearly two years after he embarked on a diet and fitness regimen that left him 110 pounds lighter and diabetes free, Gov. Mike Huckabee (search) began the Little Rock Marathon on Sunday with a new running mate — Gov. Tom Vilsack (search) of Iowa.
The pair were expected to cross the finish line early Sunday afternoon, but Vilsack, a Democrat, gave an early concession speech to his Republican rival.
"I am going to acknowledge right now that the governor of Arkansas is going to beat me," Vilsack, 54, said Saturday. He finished the Des Moines Marathon in just under five hours.
Huckabee said his goal was to finish the race "sometime before Monday."
"Crossing that finish line is going to be an incredible accomplishment," the 49-year-old governor said. "I'm going to be the happiest man in Arkansas."
Arkansas' first lady Janet Huckabee plans to walk the entire 26 miles, while Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack said she will walk part of it.
Huckabee has championed healthy living in public talks nationwide and media interviews after losing more than 100 pounds from eating right and exercise. He invited the Iowa governor to join him in the race a few weeks ago at a Washington, D.C., meeting.
As the governors and their wives met outside the Clinton Presidential Library (search) Saturday for a tour of the center, Vilsack said his state was following Huckabee's lead and taking a closer look at the problem of obesity.
Asked if they planned any special rewards for themselves if they complete the race, both governors laughed. Vilsack predicted Huckabee would feel good about himself the first 30 seconds after the race, but then the pain would set in and he wouldn't feel much like celebrating.
More than 1,000 people are expected to attempt the marathon.