Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's recent admission that he hadn't really run a marathon in under three hours, as he fraudulently claimed in a national radio interview, but in fact didn't even break four hours, puts him in fast company when it comes to politicians who exaggerated or lied about their feats of athleticism.
Ryan's forced confession, after being confronted by evidence uncovered by Runner's World magazine, puts him in the same league as Bill Richardson, a former New Mexico governor, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and energy secretary whose official biography once stated he had been drafted by the Kansas City Athletics to play pro baseball.
Richardson, who before Barack Obama's rise considered seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, also had let it be known that he had been drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Dodgers and Baltimore Orioles, but finally had to issue a lame mea culpa when reporters could not turn up any evidence of major league interest in signing the one-time college baseball star.
Richardson's bogus explanation that he thought baseball scouts put him on "a draft list of some kind," has the same phony ring of untruth as Ryan's excuse: "I literally thought that was my time. It was 22 years ago. You sorta forget these things."
Memo to Paul Ryan: You may forget the date of your anniversary, or the year you went to a Grateful Dead concert, or your S.A.T. score, but if you're a runner, you NEVER forget your best marathon time. (Gratuitous boast: I've run 2:55 twice, but wouldn't be stupid enough to brag that I've run, say, 2:30, nor would any of the marathoners I know.)
Compounding Ryan's dishonesty was that he originally claimed to have run a "2 hour and 50-something" marathon, which is quite different from a more innocent and easy-to-understand mistake of simply saying he ran "under four hours."
After some investigative reporting, Runner's World discovered that Ryan had completed only one 26.2-mile foot race, Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, Minn., in 1990 with a time of 4:01:25, a respectable but middle-of-the-pack time.
Ryan later feebly tried to walk back his claim in a published report.
"I hurt my back when I was in my mid-20s, so I had to stop running. And so obviously, my perception of races and times was off. I thought that was an ordinary time until my brother showed me a 3-hour marathon is, you know, very – crazy fast. I ran a 4-hour marathon."
Democrats, naturally, are off and running with Ryan's stumble.
Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, noted that his mother, Jill Biden, ran the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., with a time of 4:30:02 in 1998.
"So I guess he can compete with my mom. Maybe not. I think my mom could take him," Biden said.
Good for Jill Biden, but while we're on the topic of the second lady, I have to get something off my chest. Ever notice that every news account refers to her as "Dr. Jill Biden"?
It implies that she's a noted neurosurgeon, or at least an M.D.
Now I have nothing but utmost respect for people with advanced degrees, but Jill Biden's title comes from having earned a doctor of education in educational leadership. Good for her, but most of the PhDs I know – and more than one M.D. and D.V.M. – don't insist on being called "doctor."
Anyway, Ryan's bogus story pales by comparison to the hilariously fanciful tale woven by then-South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford in 2009, when after disappearing for six days claimed he had been hiking on the Appalachian Trail. Never mind that the Appalachian Trail doesn't pass through his state.
In fact, Sanford, married at the time, had been in Buenos Aires with his mistress (What is it with politicians and Argentine women – remember Wilbur Mills and Fanne Foxe, "the Argentine Firecracker" who jumped into Washington's Tidal Basin after a drunken spree with the Arkansas Congressman?)
Incidentally, Sanford and Maria Belen Chapur, his one-time mistress, are now engaged, so an old-fashioned scold would say he is finally making an "honest" woman of her.
Maybe Paul Ryan should start running – with his feet – again. At 42 he's still a young guy, and a sub-three-hour marathon shouldn't be beyond his reach.