Seemingly overnight, with the change from August to September, my body seems to have decided to begin its emergence from The Slump, and with it, my mind seems to be emerging from its drought of blogging motivation. Suddenly I am faced with more topics than you, my reader, probably wish to see in such a concentrated stream. So bear with me as I mete these out over the coming days. Let’s start with the timely stuff first.
What’s this most timely of items? I’ve got a serious bone to pick with a major politician who has sullied my backyard. Play politics all you want, but don’t lie about your running exploits and expect to get away with it. You simply expose yourself as a morally bankrupt jerk.
Let’s back up a bit. What happens when running and politics cross paths? On the local level, it just means I run, rather than drive, to the polls to vote, as I did today for Massachusetts’ oddly scheduled Thursday primary. The kind ladies covering Ward Six don’t seem to mind my sweat, especially on a day like today when few realized there was actually an election, and thus they’d go for anything to break the boredom.
But what about on the national level? There’s been a long history of politicians who run, some who have made it quite visible. Back in my First Lap days, the Secret Service had to find a few guys who could pop in a few miles with Jimmy Carter. (And what do you know, he’s still alive and kicking!) Since then there have been many others. When on the fence about any candidate, knowing that they’re fitness-oriented, specifically runners, certainly says something about their character to other runners. And with all the spin and rhetoric that flies constantly in political circles, often it comes down to a judgment of character. Character matters.
Let’s stop here for a moment. If you see me on the street and we talk politics, you’ll know quickly where I stand. If you really want to scour past postings, you can get a hint. But I’m not going there tonight, I’m going to character, specifically where it crosses into my world, the world of running. I tell you emphatically that I would publish the forthcoming rant no matter who the candidate to blame was, and whether I felt they were Pure Evil or Goodness and Light (though as I noted, since this is about character, following this doozey if would be hard to characterize this person as Goodness and Light).
While they say all politicians lie, I don’t believe that. There are a few honest ones out there, though debatably it’s hard to be sure. There are plenty of arguments about what constitutes a lie, a fact, a spin, a twist, a deception, a slant, or what the definition of the word ‘is’ is. But while it’s hard to prove honesty, it’s easy to prove the opposite when someone steps into your realm of expertise and spews forth obviously recognizable lies.
Which brings us to the man who wishes to become our Vice-President, Paul Ryan. As I said, I’m not going to discuss his politics. This is a running blog, not a political soapbox. But as a running blog, I feel a bit of an obligation to help keep my sport pure. And Mr. Ryan has entered my world, come into my backyard, and dumped crap all over it. Major foul. Fifteen yard penalty. Red card. Ten minute major, game misconduct. And a full disqualification.
What am I talking about? Ryan went on a national radio show and said (I may not have the words exact), “I was fast when I was young, I ran a marathon in two-fifty-something.” His staff confirmed his claim.
Except, of course, that he didn’t do that. Not even close. The folks at Runner’s World set a staffer on the hunt and found the truth. He ran one marathon, Grandma’s in Duluth, 1990, as a twenty-year-old college student, in FOUR-OH-ONE-TWENTY-FIVE. He was a solid mid-packer, but that, apparently, wasn’t good enough for the image he was trying to put forth, so he became a liar from the mid-pack instead. Caught red-handed, he was forced to confess – at least to the press. He’d better take it up with his pastor as well. I think there’s a commandment thing going on here.
Now, this tidbit didn’t get a lot of press. To the average Joe on the street, what’s the difference? They guy said he ran a marathon and he did. Time? Schmime! (Is that how you’d spell that?) But to a runner, a marathoner, a marathon racer who actually has run a two-fifty-something a half-dozen times, this is a mind-blower that exposes moral bankruptcy.
First, anyone who runs a marathon remembers it. It’s a life experience, sometimes a life-changing experience. And while I know people who have run so many that they can’t always recall each one (this is a mental exercise I do on some runs, trying to recall each of my seventeen marathons and the times), I don’t know anyone who doesn’t recall their first, especially if it was their only. They might have the time a few minutes off, but they know what they did. Cape Cod, October 2005, three-twenty-nine.
Second, anyone who has run a marathon cannot possibly confuse a sub-three-hour marathon, where you are racing the distance, with a four-hour marathon, where the ordeal centers on tactics to achieve the distance. Runners I know who run four-hour marathons view a sub-three the same way I view elite marathoners’ performances. It’s something to be respected, awed by, and recognized as a gift that’s simply not evenly distributed among the population. No four-hour marathoner I’ve ever met could possibly ever assert they’d gone sub-three, just as I could never possibly assert I’d run sub-two-twenty.
Finally, any runner with any self-respect is proud of their accomplishments for what they are, fast, slow, or otherwise. Am I impressed with a two-thirty performance? Of course I am. But am I impressed with a four-thirty performance as well? More than you’d know. I see people achieve their marathon dream coming from very different places with very different talents, but universally displaying dedication, motivation, and just plain guts. Whenever they get there, they are winners. And let’s face it. I don’t want to be out there for four and a half hours. I’ve got tremendous respect for those who keep at it for so long until they reach their goal.
This doesn’t just apply to marathoners. This applies to anyone who gets off the couch and runs any distance to better themselves. You’ve got my respect, and the respect of any other runner who’s strapped on a pair of shoes and gotten out there.
But lie about it?
I’d settle for Ryan admitting he didn’t recall his exact time. I’d settle for him getting it wrong by a few minutes (indeed, he got the date wrong by a year, who cares?). I would have been impressed solely by the fact that he had run a marathon – and he did run a marathon. But to turn this into a self-serving, massive, and outrageous lie which one has to believe was intended to build up his P90X fitness related image? This simply can’t be dismissed as a misstatement. The word pathological comes to mind.
This isn't about Republicans or Democrats. This is about personal integrity and honesty to our sport. You’ve not only offended runners everywhere, you’ve thrown away any shred of self-respect. That’s not what marathoning or running is about.
Links on this abomination:
Grandma’s Marathon 1990 Results
New York Daily News