Paul Ryan’s marathon lie: Great, here’s another politician who’s apparently not Kenyan

Pictured: Congressman Ryan


GateHouse — Let’s get this out of the way: Paul Ryan’s for-realsies marathon time — the four-hour one that an official timer clocked officially in official 1990 using an official 1990 stopwatch, which played Bell Biv DeVoe music — totally beats mine. Hell, Sarah Palin’s marathon time beats mine, and trust me, this is not information that makes it easy to get out of bed every morning.

We could spend the better part of the afternoon inventorying the politicians who have run faster marathons than me — it’s actually most o of them, with the exception of Al Gore, who I shall now take to calling “An Inconvenient Turtle.”

But that’s the point: We can do that because I remember mine. Everybody remembers their own PRs, whether they’re two hours or seven. We love them unconditionally, we spend loads of time awkwardly shoving them into conversations that go on to cover the status of our knees, the contents of our running mixes, the number of packets of nutrient-rich goo we forced ourselves to absorb, the emotional attachment we have with our shoes (the majority of which do not love us back), and if you’re really lucky, some details about bathroom breaks. Point is, PEOPLE REMEMBER. God, you could start a second Instagram with the number of shoe-pictures alone. (Note: <– OH GOD, NO ONE DO THIS.)

Which is why when Ryan told a radio host that he couldn’t remember his marathon PR — “under three, high twos, I had a two hour and 50-something” — my eyebrows immediately went up. And not just my eyebrows — which was good, as I burned most of them off in a 1996 silver-nitrate-related chem-lab mishap — but the eyebrows of my actual running friend Jamey, who has run Boston three times and has been to known to talk an awful lot about his socks. Which WICK MOISTURE! Y’all aren’t even ready for the amount of moisture they can wick.




Long story short, in a statement to Runner’s World magazine, one of eight billion media outlets which found factual errors in something he said last week, Ryan wrote: “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,” Ryan wrote, neglecting to mention THE RECORD, WHICH IS THE ONLY INTERESTING PART OF THIS. Not to take away from the delightful back-and-forths that must unfold at Ryan family dinners.

But OK, fine, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, assume that the guy credited with Inventing A Revolutionary Plan To Disintegrate America’s Crushing Debt has a problem recalling the first integer of a three-digit sequence. And let’s assume that it’s tough to remember all the way back to 1990, especially that time you spent months and months and months running four or five times a week in preparation for a single three-or-four-or-two-or-one-hour hour event.


Related, sort of


Even assuming all those things, there’s good news: They keep records! On the computer, even! Which you can search now! It’s not a difficult lie to catch, like “I invented the Internet” or “I’ve hunted varmints since I was 15” or “No, you guys, listen, they totally have WMDs.” Frankly I think we need someone investigating this Rage Against the Machine claim too, make sure he wasn’t actually listening to Stabbing Westward.

But then again, now that I think about it, this is a lot of effort and complaining and facts, and if we learned anything from the Republican National Convention, is that facts are chafing, jerky things best left out of speeches and life. So I’m taking a new tack. My friend Andy and I just this morning went for a 5-mile run on the beach, by which I mean a trail double-marathon uphill on a volcano, after which we killed a shark. Tomorrow I’ll be doing closer to 4 miles, which I hope to complete in my usual 97 seconds. Well, 95, if I listen to Stabbing Westward.





About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

13 responses to “Paul Ryan’s marathon lie: Great, here’s another politician who’s apparently not Kenyan

  • danbohmer

    I have ran a dozen or so marathons and I have no idea what my times were on any of them…I don’t even know for sure how many I have ran, less than 20, more than 10?

    I have never, not once, spent months and months preparing. In fact the first marathon I ran (yes I remember the first one, but not my time) I signed up about a month before the marathon & ran a total of twice between then & the marathon. I did it to prove a point – I have been running since I was two – I don’t need to practice. I am not trying to set a record.

    Anyway, my point is I do not think it at all unusual that someone has no idea what their ‘PR’ is, to some of us it just doesn’t matter, and if a guy has not run another one in 20 years, I couldn’t imagine he would have even the remotest recollection of the time. Mine was only 5-7 years ago & I would just be guessing if I threw out a time.


    • Jeff Vrabel

      Understood, Dan, but to be fair you’re in a line of work where running a marathon probably wouldn’t make a list of the 50 most impressive things you did this year. Besides, if you don’t know your time, say you don’t know your time, and definitely don’t report a really good one. I’m a huge Springsteen fan, seen him 20-some times, but if someone asked me how many concerts I’ve been to, I wouldn’t say, “I don’t remember, but somewhere around 300.” (<- This is my reference, as I have no other athletic achievements to speak of.)


  • Anthony

    I’m with Dan. I was really proud of my fastest two mile at the pinnacle of my running career (senior year of high school), but 5 years later, I don’t remember what it was. I think it might have been around 13 minutes, but I don’t really know.


    • Mike

      This article was total nonsense. An absolute waste of time, ink and digital space. Better get more meat in your articles or the 5 people that actually wasted their time will certainly look elsewhere.


  • Eye Dios Mio

    I loved this. I chuckled at your shark killing run, good job.

    I see both sides to this, in that my eyebrows went up regarding his marathon time as well, but I have so many friends who run marathons. I hear about it all the time – they are very intense.
    It’s possible he was just guessing b/c he forgot his time from 20 years ago, but why not say, “I dont exactly recall.” That’s what I dont get. Dont just throw out a number if you dont remember something, just say “I dont remember.”
    I also think it partly speaks to his character, in that he is quick to make a statement without researching it first because it suits him at the time. In my opinion, this whole thing just makes him seem like that jerkwad who brags about how much lifts, how far he swims or runs, and yet I always see him spending his time tweeting on his phone and not doing much else.
    But hey, I’ve never run a marathon, so there ya go.
    But if I did? I’d totally kill a shark, too.


  • Chris

    HI Jeff,
    I thought this article was funny. So funny, in fact, that I have read it 200 or 300 times, at least. Or thereabouts.


  • Georgie Girl

    Hello, I just thought I’d let you know that I have nominated you for the One Lovely Blogger award. Check it out at:

    best of luck!


  • How I committed adorable voter fraud in South Carolina and it still didn’t matter much « Jeff Vrabel

    […] Paul Ryan’s Marathon Lie: Great, Here’s Another Political Who’s Apparently Not Ken… […]


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