I know sub-three hour marathoners, I am friends with sub-three hour marathoners, and I have run a sub-three hour marathon. Paul Ryan, you are no sub-three hour marathoner.
To many, Paul Ryan’s marathon lie is probably the most innocuous one he told in the last couple of weeks. That one about the Janesville auto plant seems worse. The one about Obama rejecting the bipartisan debt commission’s recommendations worse yet. And so on. So why is his lie about running a sub-3 marathon so creepy?
First, in case it is not clear. It is a LIE, not a slip of the tongue or a misremembered fact. To the interviewer who asked him what his personal record in the marathon was, Ryan answered: “Under three, high twos. I had a two hour and fifty-something.” In three different ways, Ryan said that he ran 26.2 miles in under three hours! When caught red-footed by Runner’s World, Ryan’s lame response was: “The race was more than 20 years ago, but my brother Tobin—who ran Boston last year—reminds me that he is the owner of the fastest marathon in the family and has never himself ran a sub-three. If I were to do any rounding, it would certainly be to four hours, not three. He gave me a good ribbing over this at dinner tonight.” Instead, Ryan should have said, “I know. That was a complete and bald-faced lie. I apologize. I guess I thought I could get away with it, like I do so many other things. Have you noticed that my hair is very thick?”
Now that that’s settled, why is the lie so disturbing? Because it was so utterly unnecessary. Only runner geeks like me and my friends (and Elliot Spitzer, whose marathon p.r. is apparently faster than Ryan’s but slower than mine!) care about marathon times. The country as a whole would not be terribly impressed with what is a big deal (and it really is, and Ryan knew it; see above about the LIE) in our small and semi-masochistic circles. So why lie? Why try to claim, simply by saying it, what others claim solely after mingling their given talent with intense training, and then pulling it all together on race day? The casualness, the pettiness, the nonchalance of the lie is what smacks of pathology. Why not lie? That’s Ryan’s default position. Lie, and then backtrack a bit and move on. Have you noticed that his hair is very thick?
But it’s not funny. If the guy gets in office, the lies will be even thicker.