Marathon Man

Another all too predictable Paul Ryan beat down, cue the fact checkers, ‘we got a bleeder’ screed? Well, only a little. After his GOP convention acceptance speech, putative VP Ryan triggered a torrent of criticism centered on his (ahem) fast and furious approach to the facts used to smite the godless, graceless Democratic horde. We that sling stones from the Great White Plexiglas fortress have another idea about the self-promoted MarathonMan.

They’re only an hour apart

I started distance running in Grade 8. Freeze yer ass off, rainy, sleety, late Canadian autumn cross-country races, where some stringy, speedy dude in a singlet, no gloves, and a groin built for the next Ice Age invariably breezed home, a weird all-weather Martian, with the straggling and struggling dragging in his wake. University all-comers meets, where reality was a smack job dealt by a hung over Kenyan exchange student running at his half speed in the 3000 meters. Now, a less than glorious athletic career reduced to doomed rear guard actions against relentless middle age. Sic transit gloria mundi – yet even the fading runner remembers their ‘best ever’.

Paul Ryan, marathoner, told the credulous American public that some years ago he ran a sub-3 hour marathon, or less than 7 minutes per mile for the entire course. Not merely a success – this represents a 90th percentile achievement for any mortal recreational jock – a bona fide, “Wow, Paul… helluva run!!” Not merely another glad-handing politician, either, but a real guy, doing what millions do, train hard, run their best, and win their own small battles – the enduring storyline of the American Dream.

Marathon training does not make people better or smarter. It does not prevent hate-filled bozos from making idiotic anti-Islam films in the name of free expression, nor does it encourage newly enlightened Arab Springers to hack down the offending tree, and leave the healthy tolerant forest intact. Lots of people hate running, they make other lifestyle choices – and good for them. It is cavalier poseurs like Paul Ryan that mess with the true runner ethic, when that stirring sub-3 is revealed by Runners World as an entirely creditable but not so eye-catching 4 hours and change. If one claims membership in a community connected by a ‘do ones best’ ethic, measured by Time, the harshest taskmaster, you are either in or you are out. Marathons are carbo-loading, strategically placed Vaseline, mid-race realizations that the training regime was too little or too late, fierce muscle pain that will linger, and …. a transcendent ability to spit out one’s best ever result, anywhere, anytime, with little prompting.

In a land long ago and far away, your scribe ran a 2:42:11 marathon – the world record of 2 hours 3 minutes still safe. When I am ancient, and not able to remember my birthday, I will remember that PB, to the second, doubtless ad nauseam for family and strangers alike. Runner Ryan blithely misremembered his alleged best by over an hour, sadly revealed on this small issue as all talk and no trousers. A tarted-up race result from 20 years ago is not reproductive rights, health care by voucher, or the relative merits of Keystone XL. But….sports does not build character – it reveals it, as quickly as a couple of convivial beers slide south after a tough run…and as for Paul Ryan, there was nothing wrong with the 4 hour truth. Was there?