Paul Ryan exaggerates his marathon-running prowess

Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan plays cornhole during a tailgate party at the Ohio State University-Miami University of Ohio football game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.
(Mary Altaffer / Associated Press)

Voters will have to decide how much to ding Republican vice presidential nominee Paul D. Ryan for slamming President Obama on a debt reduction commission, when Ryan made the same judgment himself with a vote in Congress.

That kind of inconsistency is easy to prove, if a bit arcane for some Americans. But there is nothing mysterious to the athletically-inclined about marathon times, so it will be interesting to see how the public reacts to Ryan carving a huge hunk out of his best time for the 26.2-mile race.

Ryan last week told radio host Hugh Hewitt that he had run a marathon “Under three [hours], high twos. I had a two hour and fifty-something.”

Even for someone like the hyper-fit Ryan, sub-3 is a substantial accomplishment — requiring a runner to average under seven minutes a mile, a pace most recreational runners can’t hold for even a mile or two.

PHOTOS: Paul Ryan’s past

When Runner’s World magazine expressed some skepticism about the accomplishment, the Ryan campaign conceded the Wisconsin lawmaker had given the wrong information. He ran a single marathon—the 1990 Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn. – and that race lists Ryan’s finish as 4 hours, 1 minute and 25 seconds.

That’s more than an hour slower than Ryan had claimed, prompting Ryan to issue a corrective statement Friday night.

“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,” said Ryan, officially nominated this week as Mitt Romney’s running mate . “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.”

It’s not clear, with Ryan saying he would round his time to four hours, why he rounded it dramatically downward.

Many avid runners commenting on the blogosphere said they can’t imagine anyone so badly misremembering their time, especially for a pinnacle achievement like a marathon and especially for those who have run it just one or two times.

Aficionados of the “26.2" wondered what made Ryan so badly misstate his best time and then brush off the error so blithely.

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Runners commenting on the Runner’s World online bulletin board gave a mixed verdict: “The Romney campaign has already stated ‘We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,’” said one. “Anyone who believes Ryan without documented proof should have their voting privileges revoked.”

It’s hard to tell whether the exaggerated marathoning memory will resonate with many voters. Voters usually have some patience, but they can quickly become displeased with politicians whose prevarications become routine.


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