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The Globe and Mail

GOP 'running' mate Paul Ryan's marathon time not as fast as he claims

Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. claps as presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign event, Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012, in Jacksonville, Fla.

Mary Altaffer/AP

Exaggerating about how fast you ran a marathon is kind of a jerk move.

First of all, it's impressive enough that you ran 42.2 km; no need to embellish. Second, as U.S. Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan has learned, you're pretty much guaranteed to get caught in your lie.

In a recent radio interview, Mr. Ryan made the bold claim that his personal best time for running a marathon was under three hours.

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"Under three, high twos. I had a two hour and fifty-something," he told interviewer Hugh Hewitt. When Mr. Hewitt expressed awe, Mr. Ryan added: "I was faster when I was younger, yeah."

Mr. Ryan also told Mr. Hewitt that he doesn't run marathons (note the plural) any more because he hurt a disc in his back.

For non-professionals, a sub-3:00 marathon is nothing short of awesome. As Runner's World pointed out, that would make Mr. Ryan the fastest marathoner on a national ticket. John Edwards's marathon time was 3:30, George W. Bush ran 3:44 and Sarah Palin ran 3:59.

But as Runner's World discovered, Mr. Ryan's actual marathon time was far slower than he recalled. A spokesman confirmed that Mr. Ryan has run one marathon (singular). The results for that race, the 1990 Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, Minn., had Mr. Ryan listed as crossing the finish line in four hours, one minute and 25 seconds. Still a very solid performance, but that puts him in a whole other category of runner. (More "well done!" than "wowee!")

In a statement to Runner's World, Mr. Ryan explained: "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. 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."

Okay, okay, so the race was a long time ago and maybe Mr. Ryan's memory is foggy. But as some runners have noted, marathoners rarely forget a personal best, no matter how much time has passed. And surely anyone who's ever run a marathon knows that even if you forget your exact time, it's hard to mistakenly subtract a whole hour. Moreover, Mr. Ryan was recently criticized and roundly lampooned for his apparently relaxed attitude toward facts during his speech at the Republican National Convention.

In the grand scheme of things, fibbing about your marathon time – or misremembering, as the case may be – may seem like no big deal. But it does raise the question: How would a person who gives a bogus marathon time tackle matters that actually are a big deal?

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