Virtually everyone who’s finished a marathon knows his or her time all too well. Whatever the number — whether it’s the 4 hours, 1 minute, and 25 seconds in which Paul Ryan ran a 1990 marathon in Minnesota, or something much faster or slower — nothing about those 26.2 miles is easily forgettable. Which is why the GOP vice presidential candidate’s boast that he ran a sub-three-hour marathon caused such a stir in a running community that frowns on rounding even a couple of minutes off one’s time. While Ryan’s actual time was respectable for a recreational runner, the one he claimed placed him among the 4 percent of male marathoners worldwide. Three-hour marathons generally aren’t for newbies.
Neither are national political campaigns, as Ryan is discovering. Many lawmakers puff up their legislative achievements during campaign season, and until a few weeks ago Ryan was just a congressman from Wisconsin. But now that Ryan has the second-highest profile in the Republican Party, his claims about his past draw scrutiny not just from political journalists but even from Runner’s World — especially because his youth and athleticism are part of his public appeal. His marathon fib certainly isn’t fatal to his prospects, but there is an obvious moral: If you know how impressive a feat it is to run 26.2 miles in under three hours, you should also know when you haven’t done it.