About a month ago, Mitt Romney announced (through his “Mitt’s VP” app) that Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan as his official VP candidate. In the immediate aftermath, stories about his family history of heart attacks and his daily devotion to P90X surfaced. Personally, the entire collection of interest around the election does very little for me because I already know who I’m going to vote for (hint: it’s not the guy with hundreds of millions of dollars in offshore accounts).
As much as I’ve been trying to avoid the increasingly obnoxious political ads and stories, one story recently came out that caught my interest. In an interview with Hugh Hewitt, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan claimed he’d run a marathon in the 2:50-ish range. As you’ve probably heard, it’s since come out that he not only hasn’t run under 3 hrs… the Paul Ryan marathon record isn’t even under 4 hrs.
Does this little lie make him any less competent at running a country? I doubt it. You could make the argument that it proves he’s a liar, but I assume the amount of people who aren’t liars in Washington is a similar ratio to the amount of soon-to-be-mothers in the delivery room who are virgins.
More importantly, I’ve learned that Paul Ryan is “that guy.” You know that guy… he’s the guy who shot a 78 on the golf course even though you saw him take two mulligans, hit two balls in the water and another out of bounds without counting a penalty, and take any put inside of six feet as a gimme. He’s the guy who claims he caught a near world record walleye, but his camera was out of battery so he couldn’t get a picture. He’s the guy who claims he was the starter on the 2nd best basketball team in the state even though he averaged 1.4 points and never played (oh wait… that’s Skip Bayless).
As a rule, almost all runner’s who consider themselves at the very least semi-competitive lie. The lie that the runner tells themselves, though, is what time they “could have” run. I’ve heard countless professional runners say they are (fill in the blank time) shape only to go out and run a time that is slower than (fill in the blank time). I’ve done it myself. When I ran my half-marathon PR of 1:31:07 in 2008, I absolutely believe I was in shape to run in the mid-to-high 1:20s. You cannot tell me otherwise. In my opinion, I had a bad race, but it still was a PR because I was in such good shape. There have been other times, such as this past winter, where I felt I was in great shape (possibly PR shape) but just didn’t have any races to run fast being the middle of winter in Minnesota and all.
To me, it’s one thing to convince yourself you are able to achieve things that you haven’t. It’s the reason every professional athlete who’s sitting on a bench is convinced they could do a more than adequate job if given a chance as a starter. It’s the reason that Denard Robinson and Chris Johnson think they could beat Usain Bolt. Self belief is something that is deeply embedded into every semi-competitive athlete. On some levels, it makes sense. If you have a goal of running under 3 hrs, but don’t truly believe you’ll ever be able to do it, why bother even trying?
Which brings us back to Paul Ryan. One thing that I love about running is that it is one of the only sports that is completely objective. There are subjective little elements (aka – the stuff I love to complain about… incorrectly measured courses, wind, temperature, topography, quality of the field, etc) that can change a result by a very small percentage. By and large, though, you are your time. You aren’t a sub 3-hr marathon runner until you run 2:59:59 or under. I’ve run under 18-minutes in a 5k on my treadmill, but time and time again, I’ve run bad 5k race after bad 5k race. If someone were to ask me my 5k PR, I’d reluctantly have to tell them 20:07. I’d then follow up with a million and a half reasons why it should be faster and I’d obviously include my treadmill PR. But the fact of the matter, as a runner, is I’m forced to lead with my real time. Any way you split it, as a runner, your time is your time. The 14:45 5k PR is more impressive than the 15:15 PR which is more impressive than the 16:00 PR and so on and so forth. Unlike other sports, running is a sport where you can’t fake it. You earn respect by running faster and faster times. The reason the running community is so upset about by the fake Paul Ryan marathon claim that he ran a 2:50-ish marathon because he is trying to place himself in a position and gain respect for which he has not earned and does not deserved.
Going back to the golf example, I can’t claim I once shot a 63 (omitting that it was Par 56 executive course) or claiming I once shot 2 under par for 18 holes (did I forget to mention that it was mini golf?) If I did that, I’d be labeled a liar and a creep. Paul Ryan has been getting a lot of guff lately, especially within the political and running communities, for his lie. As a mediocre runner who has worked very hard for all of my (admittedly) mediocre PR’s, I can’t help but feel he deserves all the criticism he is receiving right now. The one positive that has come out of this for me, though, thanks to the hilarious Paul Ryan marathon calculator, I’ve learned that I can “claim” my Paul Ryan marathon adjusted PR is 2:29. Ladies and gentlemen, after 10 years of mediocre running, I’m on the cusp of qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Trials marathon!