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Last Updated:  Monday, 14 April, 2003, 04:44 GMT 05:44 UK
Slovakia's running prime minister
Mikulas Dzurinda
Mr Dzurinda runs, cycles and dances
The Slovak Prime Minister, Mikulas Dzurinda, combined pleasure and business on a visit to London this weekend.

On Sunday he took part in the London marathon before his meeting with his UK opposite number, Tony Blair, on Monday.

Mr Dzurinda's website describes him as a "fiery" marathon runner, and he has becomethe first serving prime minister to run in the event.

He finished in a time of three hours 36 minutes 27 seconds, eight minutes better than his time in the New York marathon two years ago.

His time was a clear 18 minutes ahead of Mr Blair's director of communications, Alastair Campbell - even though the British prime minister's aide is three years younger.

The 48-year-old Slovak' s enthusiasm for sport sometimes exhausts those who work with him.

His minders, in particular, have difficulties keeping up on training runs.

But party colleagues were also obliged to cycle round the country during last year's election campaign, on a whim of the prime minister's.

Visiting politicians have also been known to look on with unease as he joins in lustily with gipsy dancers, unsure whether they too should take part - and whether they could keep up.

Sport as politics

However, things do not always go smoothly for Mr Dzurinda himself.

On a Czech fun run a few years ago he accidentally crossed on to the course marked out for the Prague marathon, which was being held simultaneously, and ended up running double the intended nine kilometres.

This was Mr Dzurinda's 18th marathon.

He set his personal best of two hours 55 minutes in the Malokarpatsky Marathon in eastern Slovakia in 1986.

His office said he was running to express support for the struggle against global terrorism and for the US-led coalition fighting in Iraq.

There are some echoes with the 2001 New York marathon, which Mr Dzurinda ran in order to express his solidarity with the city, in the wake of the 11 September attacks.

Mr Dzurinda had hoped to meet England footballer Ashley Cole during his visit to the UK, to apologise for racist abuse from Slovak fans during a Euro 2004 qualifying match in October - but Cole could not fit it into his schedule.

Doughnut fan

Mr Dzurinda also has a taste for sporting metaphors.

He saw his party's years in opposition as the early part of a long-distance race, claiming - correctly as it turned out - that he and his allies would win in the end.

He has also likened the battle for membership of the EU to a game of football - one which will be approaching extra time when he travels on to Athens next week to sign the EU accession treaty.

On his website, Mr Dzurinda describes his favourite food as doughnuts from his native Spis region, in eastern Slovakia - fatty and sugary, with jam in the middle.

A spokeswoman at the Slovak embassy in London said the doughnuts were extremely fattening, but added that Mr Dzurinda has no need to worry.

"He's quite short and slim," she said, guessing at a height of 172 centimetres (a little less than five feet eight inches), and a weight of 70 kilogrammes (11 stone).

"Short, yes," says a journalist who has spent time with him. "But very energetic."

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