marathon fraudster Kip Litton. And by "marathon fraudster," I don't mean Litton's con itself lasted a long time, but rather that he went to elaborate lengths to fake impressive times in actual marathons. ("Marathoner" Rosie Ruiz, listed by SoccerLens as one of the greatest all-time sports cheats, actually inspired many of the tech checks Litton circumvented to score such great split times.) (Allegedly.)
Singer's writing is fantastic, and anyway, I'm always drawn to that kind of story, the committed con man or identity thief living under a stolen name, taking wrongful credit for accomplishments. I don't know why that is. Maybe it's because I remember James Hogue, a.k.a. "Alexi Indris-Santana" -- himself an accomplished runner, under both assumed names and his own -- getting arrested in class a few buildings away when I was a freshman in college. More likely, it's because I have the most flagrant "tells" in the world and have never been able to get away with so much as an "of COURSE there'll be parents there," much less scams on the level of Frank "Catch Me If You Can" Abagnale.
But a big part of the fascination is the fact that I don't get it. Why would you want credit for doing something you didn't do? Isn't it easier just to do the thing than to go to the lengths Litton went to to fake doing it, and then have to live in fear of getting caught? In the case of a marathon, actually, it probably isn't; I used to live right on the New York Marathon route, around Mile 7, and even at that earlyish point, every year you saw some folks who had made a horrible mistake and were about to break down. I'm not about to run to the corner to catch a bus, much less 26.2 miles "for fun." Still: let the people who did legitimately finish have the credit.
Now VP candidate Paul Ryan's been busted in not one but two sporting lies this week: the first, "misremembering" that he ran an under-three-hour marathon (actually just over four hours, and The Atlantic would like to point out that Sarah Palin ran a faster one); the second, "sorry for the confusion"-ing that he'd climbed 40 of Colorado's "Fourteener" peaks, peaks taller than 14,000 feet high (actually went on climbs 40 times, some peaks more than once? or something).
Look: my idea of exercise is drinking a Gatorade while reading the R.A. Dickey memoir, so if Ryan so much as entered a marathon, or climbed briskly up a mild incline, he's ahead of me, and I don't really care if a political candidate is a bad-ass on the playing field in the second place. I do think lying about those accomplishments, or exaggerating them, is a bad sign. It's dishonest, obviously, and it's also arrogant, because Ryan had to know the internet was immediately going to check his claims -- and he made them anyway. Isn't it more important to know that you did the thing than for others to think, incorrectly, that you did?
Any thoughts on Ryan's "misspeaks," Singer's article, or the James Hogue pop-culture industry? (There's also a book, The Runner, that's quite good.) Did I miss yet a third recent example of people yanking race results out of their derrieres? Hit me in the comments.
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