Viewsday

Analysis, discussion and opinions by members of Newsday's editorial board.

Filler: Marathon runners don't forget their time. What was Paul Ryan thinking?

If someone were to poke me out of a sound sleep and whisper, “What was your time in that marathon you ran,” I would immediately respond, “My gun time was 4:48 but my chip time was 4:44, because I started from the back, so runners faster than me (octogenarians, grandmothers, a guy carrying an enormous American flag) wouldn’t run over me as I shambled along. It was an 11-minute per mile pace. I ran the first half in 2:23 and the second half in 2:21. I could have done a lot better, if I wasn’t a chubby guy with the raw athletic ability of an overripe eggplant.”

I would be able to give this answer instantaneously even if awakened from a slumber so deep drool had created a small lap pool on the pillow and my snores were registering as earthquakes on a seismic monitor 45 miles away.

I ran Kiawah on my 39th birthday, in 2009. Crossing that finish line probably wasn’t the top athletic achievement of my life (I was a pretty fair competitive swimmer in my youth), but it was the top discipline achievement of my life. It officially marked the end of a two-decade period of sedentary sloth, and it took two years of training, the last six months of it extremely intensive, to make happen.


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I do not believe that Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan could misstate the time he clocked in the 1990 Grandma’s Marathon, in Duluth, Minn., without it being intentional. Particularly after I looked at what he actually said.

Ryan told a radio host last week he ran that marathon, the only one he’s ever run, in “under three (hours), high twos. I had a two hour and fifty-something.”

He actually completed it in just over four hours.

For you non-runners out there, he was describing an athletic feat that would be, while not world class, pretty elite. We’re talking more than 26 miles at a sub-seven minute per mile pace. Few casual runners can run more than one or two miles at that clip.

Based on the fact that he stated the time in three separate ways in the comment, I don’t believe he misspoke. And again, I don’t think it’s possible for a guy who has run just one marathon to forget his time, or misstate it by an hour, in three different ways, by accident.

This may not be a huge personal failing, but it is quite odd. 

Ryan’s “exaggeration” is not the equivalent of a golfer saying he shot an 89 when he actually needed 94 strokes to complete the round. This is the equivalent of a golfer saying he shot a 69 when he needed 94 strokes strokes to complete the round.

The technical term for such a statement is “a whopper.”

What’s sad is that running a marathon in four hours, which Ryan undeniably did, is a significant accomplishment, and one worth trumpeting. It takes a ton of perseverance, discipline and drive, traits that would serve a vice president well.

It’s an above-average time, and a great one for a novice.  Had we run our singular marathons together, he’d have been showered, dressed and drinking a Coolatta by the time I crossed the line.

Somehow Ryan managed to turn what should be a badge of honor into an (admittedly) small mark of shame. Me, I’ll keep taking pride in my 4:44, no matter how many 77-year-old power walkers beat me.

It’s not very fast, I know. But it is true.

Tags: paul ryan , running , marathon , time , lying

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