I can’t remember the precise time of my fastest marathon. I do know that it was 3 hours, 48 minutes and 30 seconds, give or take 30 seconds. You could look it up. It was the 1996 Marine Corps Marathon, I’m almost sure.
That’s why Paul Ryan’s failure to remember his marathon time — or more likely, his decision to lie about it, after he had been nominated for vice president — is so puzzling.
No marathon runner I know — and I know dozens — has forgotten what we call our PRs, or personal records. You might not remember to the second, or to the minute, but you know within a minute or two. Nor would any of my running friends, none of whom are candidates for national political office, lie about their time, at least not by an hour. It’s too easy to check. Marathons keep records.
Ryan said he ran the 26.2 mile course in under three hours. In fact, he ran it in just over four. That is a huge difference–between an elite distance runner and a very ordinary middle of the pack runner, like me. Runner’s World has been all over the story, and in a bipartisan spirit, reminds those of us who were paying attention that John Kerry in all likelihood also made a false claim about running a marathon.
What is it with these people?
Here’s the relevant exchange between Ryan and radio host Hugh Hewitt:
HH: Are you still running?
PR: Yeah, I hurt a disc in my back, so I don’t run marathons anymore. I just run ten miles or less.
HH: But you did run marathons at some point?
PR: Yeah, but I can’t do it anymore, because my back is just not that great.
HH: I’ve just gotta ask, what’s your personal best?
PR: Under three, high twos. I had a two hour and fifty-something.
HH: Holy smokes.…
The “Holy smokes” should have been a tipoff to Ryan, if he had made an innocent mistake. He should have caught himself and said something like, “Oh wait, maybe it was four hours” or “You know, Hugh, it was 20 years ago and I could have that wrong, I can’t remember.”
Now, I know this is a guy who has to keep a lot of numbers in his head – budgets, deficits, debt, Medicare cuts and the like — so maybe I am being too harsh on him.
But I don’t think so.
Puzzling, no? Of all the misstatements, exaggerations and lies of the campaign, this is the strangest.