updated 8/15/2007 10:34:33 PM ET 2007-08-16T02:34:33

The temperature topped 100 sweaty degrees at President Bush's ranch on Wednesday — a fine day for a three-mile run.

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Forty White House staffers, members of the military and Secret Service gathered at a starting line and took off running. Their secret hope was to be inducted into the "President's 100-degree Club."

"You have to run for three miles. No walking. And then you get a T-shirt," White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said about the event, which has become an August tradition at the ranch.

It was grueling. The runners poured water over their heads as they ran, each at their own pace. All 40 made it.

"The air temperature was 104, but with the humidity it felt like 109 degrees," Perino said.

A member of the Marine One presidential helicopter team came in first with a time of about 18 minutes, 50 seconds. David Sherzer was the first White House staffer to cross the finish line.

"We gave him a hard time because he ran with his Blackberry," Perino said. "I think it was by accident that he had it in his pocket, but he said in case `the boss' needed anything, he was going to have his Blackberry ready."

Presidential pep talk
The president gave the runners a pep talk at the starting point of the midafternoon run — two laps on a paved road that winds near a helicopter landing zone. "He told them not to push it too hard, but to give it their all," she said.

Bush cheered them on at the halfway point and then rode in his pickup truck back to the finish line in time to shake hands with every runner and present each with a light blue T-shirt emblazoned with: "The President's 100 Degree Club."

Bush traded in his running shoes for mountain bikes several years ago after pain in his knees kept him from jogging. At 61, he is a devoted mountain bike rider, regularly leaving the White House for rides on Saturday mornings or after church on Sundays.

Besides, he had already gotten his exercise for the day.

After his morning briefings, he cut down a few trees and took a spin on his bicycle. Earlier in the week, he worked outside building mountain bike trails.

"I would expect that there would be some brush cutting to do," Perino said. "I don't know how many people are going to be able to stand it. The president, obviously, likes the heat, so maybe everyone else is just going to have to suffer through it."

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