This Sunday was the Virginia Beach half-marathon, which took place on a humid Tidewater morning. I was one of 20,000 participants, hitting the course at 7:05 a.m. as we jogged past rock bands, cheerleaders and semi-celebrity attendees (was that Frank Shorter?)
My best time at VA Beach was 1:53:54, which I accomplished in 2010. The year before I broke the tape in 1:54:10. So I was assuming I’d break two hours and actually hoping to flirt with 1 hour 50 minutes.
Instead, I staggered home in 2:02:17. Bummer.
I could blame the hot weather or perhaps over-training (I ran fifty miles last week while staying in Sandbridge). But the reality is I’m just an average aging athlete. That’s what I can do.
That brings me around to Paul Ryan’s bizarre claim that he ran a marathon in “under three hours” or “the high two’s,” when he was a young man. In other words, he averaged under 7 minutes a mile while running twenty-six miles.
That’s a very strong statement, along the lines of “I dated Cameron Diaz, before I met my current beautiful wife.”
If you’re going to claim it publicly, you better have photos.
Unfortunately for Ryan, the evidence shows that he ran only one marathon and finished in four hours and one minute. That’s not exactly “high two’s.” Hey, Paul, my best marathon time is 4 hours 22 minutes. (Of course, I was forty).
Now you might say that this issue has little or no application to the issues facing the United States. And you would be right. Ryan appears to keep himself in excellent physical shape (thumbs up for P90X) and undoubtedly his marathon boasting was meant to emphasize this fact.
But Ryan’s misrepresentation is more than just casual boasting — or another exaggerated statement which come so easily to politicians. Indeed, it goes to the very essence of long distance running.
Unlike in team sports, the runner competes with himself. There is no scoreboard, no cheering crowds, no cash rewards. Unlike in rugby, there’s not even a post-match lager with teammates. It’s a lonely world in which physical suffering is the coin of the realm.
When you shave your time by a few minutes or an hour, you’re not cheating anyone — you’re just creating a false impression for an audience of one. Because who else cares?
There’s no dishonor in finishing a marathon in an average or above-average time, as long as you honestly compete. Just have the confidence to be the man (or woman) that you really are.