If you’re stuck in traffic behind Paul Ryan’s campaign motorcade, you would expect to see Romney 2012 bumper stickers attached to the dark SUVs hauling the candidate and entourage from town to town. What we didn’t know until now is that the man who would be a heartbeat away from the Oval Office might also slap on one of those oval stickers with the numbers “26.2.”
Turns out that the 42-year-old blue-eyed wonder from the Land of Cheese is a marathon runner. And for the uninitiated, that doesn’t just mean someone who runs long distances, but someone who completes a certified marathon course of 26.2 miles. Hence, the coded stickers, which are becoming increasingly visible in parking lots across our region.
Ryan, a noted fitness buff, finished Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn., in 1990 in a respectable four hours and one minute. It was his first and only marathon. This is an accomplishment to be proud of, and one that makes him a solid middle-of-the-pack racer, who now seeks to become the first vice-presidential marathoner in American history.
So why did Ryan tell a radio talk show host that he had run a marathon in under three hours?
To some it might seem like a trivial error, to report that he had smoked the 26.2-mile course in an astounding 2:50-something. But to anyone associated with the marathon world, it places a serious stain on the man’s reputation.
Of course, truth-challenged politicians are no novelty, but lying and bragging about a 2:50 marathon—that’s a deliberate attempt to put himself in a category where he does not belong. This is not like Bill Clinton saying he had not had sex with Monica; it’s more like Clinton bragging that he did have sex—with Madonna. It’s like Mario Cuomo, a decent Pittsburgh Pirates minor league player, telling us he played centerfield for the Yankees.
So is Ryan just a braggart? Is he a liar? Suffering from a memory lapse? Our local Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle once completed a marathon on behalf of a charity organization. She does not care to brag about her time. She humbly notes that it was at least a six-hour race, and laughs at her slow pace.
No reason to diminish the accomplishment—finishing a marathon is a great feat for anyone. A four-hour marathon like the one Ryan ran, not the one he reported, is respectable. Why would he make up a story like this? Is it because he’s insecure? He thinks he won’t get caught?
One thing is for sure: It is not because he doesn’t know the number. Ask anyone who has run only one marathon and they’ll tell you their time. They’ll tell you everything you want to know and more. Believe me. Buy me a beer and I’ll tell you marathon stories all night. Want to hear about the final downhill in Boston coming toward Kenmore Square? What’s that, you say? Where are you going? Wait, don’t go away! I’ll buy you a beer!
If you golf or bowl, ask yourself, what was your best score? See what I mean?
But we’re not voting to see who is the best runner. That’s why they have races. We’re not even voting to see who might be the most righteous candidate. One of the few things that all the candidates, locally and nationally, agree on this year is that we are voting to see who can do the best job of fixing the economy
So here’s the thing: Ryan is the numbers guy. He’s the one who is supposed to know the budget inside and out. He’s the mastermind of the GOP plan to save us from deficits. Buerkle frequently refers to Ryan when the conversation turns to the deficit. His supporters claim that he can do the math to solve the deficit on the back of an envelope, yet this guy can’t keep straight the number on the clock at the end of the only marathon he’s ever run?
Which is it: 2:50 or 4:01?
It may not seem like a big deal to you. But it’s about as big as the
difference between the budget surplus built by Bill Clinton and the
deficit hole dug by George W. Bush.
Ed Griffin-Nolan’s commentary appears weekly in The New Times. He ran the 2012 Boston Marathon in 4:32:38.