BY: ANDREA EAGLEMAN
|This is the face of a runner having a very,|
very, bad day. According to Paul Ryan's Time
Calculator, though, my 4:10:28 at last year's
Boston was actually a 3:01:35!
By now it is no secret that Paul Ryan lied about his marathon personal record ("PR" in runner-speak). Runner's World first uncovered the lie on Friday when the magazine attempted to substantiate Ryan's claim that he had run a "two hour and fifty-something" marathon, which would've made him the fastest politician to ever run for President or Vice President in the United States. To put a sub-three hour marathon time into perspective, it would place him in the same athletic class as seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, who called his marathon PR effort of 2 hours, 46 minutes, 43 seconds "the hardest physical thing I have ever done." Ryan's claim of a sub-three hour marathon would also place him in roughly the top 500 out of the 21,616 runners who finished the Boston Marathon last April.
When questioned about his near-elite performance, Ryan's campaign responded that he had misspoken and actually ran a 4:01:25 in the 1990 Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, Minn., the only marathon he'd ever run. Ryan said in a statement, "If I were to do any rounding, it would certainly be to four hours, not three." Yet he couldn't deny that he told radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt he ran it in under three hours, nor could he deny that he gave the impression he ran more than one marathon in his lifetime. It is a recorded interview, readily available to anyone willing to listen or read the transcript.
I was outraged last Friday when I first heard about Ryan's latest lie. Now, days after Runner's World outed him, I'm still outraged. I've heard from some who feel the issue is trivial. "He just forgot his race time," they say. No, he didn't just forget his race time. He told a boastful, bold-faced lie and he got caught. I know because I am a runner and we never forget our times.
I've run three marathons and 12 half marathons. I remember my time from each one. You see, for runners, times are important and PRs are sacred. A runner never forgets his or her PRs. There are a few unspoken rules we runners all respect and live by; a sort of unspoken "runners' code" if you will. First and foremost, never cut a course short. Second, and just as important, never lie about your times. There are certainly instances when we've all wanted to "modify" our times in conversations with other runners. We all have races we're not proud of, races where everything went wrong, and races where we knew we could run just a little bit faster had we executed our race plan more perfectly. But we don't lie. To lie about a race time is to commit a cardinal sin in the running community. Doing so can leave one ostracized for life amongst other runners when we find out. And trust me, we will find out. Race times are typically posted online within hours of a race and runners study them to keep tabs on our competition. Stalking race times on the Internet is another thing we all do but rarely talk about.
Ryan's marathon lie is more bothersome to me than all of the lies he told during his speech at the Republican National Convention. On one hand, it was an act of utter disrespect to runners everywhere who train hard and devote much of our free time to achieving specific running goals, then proudly (or embarrassingly, as was the case for me after a dismal performance at the 2012 Boston Marathon) announce our race times and places to friends and family on Facebook, Twitter, or via text after the race. No matter what, though, we tell the truth. Along with his flippant disregard for runners' hard-earned accomplishments, Ryan's latest act of untruthfulness also provides a true window into his soul and moral character. His lies have quickly become a disturbing pattern of behavior from a public figure revered as one of the most moral and upstanding individuals in the Republican party.
As a society, we've come to expect our politicians to stretch and bend the truth about things like the economy, their opponents, or what they will do once elected. We don't expect them to lie about mundane details of their lives that have absolutely no bearing on their political careers. When Ryan lied about his marathon time with such self-assurance and confidence, he proved just how far down the moral staircase he's fallen. He proved his vanity is stronger than his integrity. Above all, he proved that he is willing to lie about anything if it makes him look better in the minds of the American people. No matter how fast or slow his marathon PR is, though, Ryan can't continue to outrun the truth.
My name is Andrea Eagleman, I'm 32 years old, and I run to...take pride in my running performances no matter how "fast" or "slow" my times may sound to others.
P.S. Some clever folks out there recently created a website called "Paul Ryan Time Calculator" where you can plug in your PRs for various distances and find out what your "Paul Ryan Time" would be. My Paul Ryan marathon time is 2:25:00 and my half marathon time is 1:07:58.
ANDREA EAGLEMAN is one of Perspective's regular columnists. She is Assistant Professor of Sport Management at IUPUI and conducts research on media portrayals of athletes. She lives in Bloomington, IN and has been running for 18 years. Andrea re-entered the world of racing four years ago and enjoys various distances from the 5K to the marathon, running the Boston Marathon in 2011 and 2012. Andrea won the Magnificent 7 Road Race Series Overall Female championship in 2009, 2010, and 2011. She enjoys traveling, blogging, reading, photography, and hanging out with her husband, Karl, and her cat, DC.