When Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said during an August radio interview that he once ran a marathon in less than three hours, North Carolina runner Bill Walker was impressed, but wanted more details.
The 63-year-old attorney, who has run four sub-three-hour marathons since college, posted a simple question on a message board for LetsRun.com, a national online forum for runners. "In an Aug. 22 interview by Hugh Hewitt, Representative Ryan said he had run a marathon in 'two hour and fifty something,'" Walker wrote on the message board. "Does anyone know the marathon and the year?"
In little time, hundreds of skeptical runners on the message board started questioning Ryan's claim that his best marathon time was "two hour and fifty something." The thread went viral. The day after Walker posted his question, Runner's World writer Scott Douglas started examining it. Turns out Ryan never ran a marathon in that time; a campaign spokesman was forced to walk back the comment.
And it all started with one question on a message board.
"I just wanted to know," Walker said in an interview posted Wednesday on LetsRun.com. "If he had really run a marathon in that range, I would be impressed because I know the effort that goes into a sub-three-hour marathon. But, if he was lying or really stretching the truth, I thought that would be significant since he had just been nominated to run for Vice-President on the Republican ticket."
Walker says he is a registered Republican, but will be voting for President Barack Obama in November.
From the LetsRun.com interview:
LRC: Now let's turn to Paul Ryan. How did you hear about his claim of a sub 3 hour marathon? You must have been a little bit skeptical if you posted about it on letsrun.com. What were your thoughts when you started the thread?
Bill Walker: I do not remember where I first read about the Hugh Hewitt interview; but, when I read the transcript, I was skeptical because everyone in my running world knows their marathon pr to at least the minute. No one would say "my marathon pr is two fifty-something." Still, a part of me thought he might have actually run a time in that range. All reports were that Congressman Ryan was very fitness-conscious and had been a personal trainer in his earlier years. I didn't know his running background. Anyway, I immediately thought of the letsrun.com message board and the multiple threads on runners suspected of cheating in races. I knew many of your regular posters had far more knowledge than me about how to check on someone's claimed race time. So, I posted part of Ryan's statement and asked a simple question: "Does anyone know the marathon and the year?" Poster "Randy Oldman" helped by almost immediately posting the full transcript of Ryan's statement.
As I've watched the "Paul Ryan's marathon" thread explode and Runner's World, etc. pick up the story, I've asked myself why I posted my question in the first place, and I've decided that I just wanted to know. If he had really run a marathon in that range, I would be impressed because I know the effort that goes into a sub-three-hour marathon. But, if he was lying or really stretching the truth, I thought that would be significant since he had just been nominated to run for Vice-President on the Republican ticket.
LRC: Are you surprised with how much attention the matter has received? One little post on a message board has generated a lot of attention. Do many people know that you are the guy who kicked this whole thing off?
Bill Walker: No. A Vice-Presidential nominee telling a verifiable lie about himself should attract a lot of attention. It speaks to his character, and that's relevant to the issue of whether someone should vote for Romney-Ryan in November.
It was one little post, but every story has a starting point. The credit goes to the letsrun.com posters who jumped on the question and pointed out repeatedly that they could not find any proof of Ryan's claim—which attracted the attention of Scott Douglas at Runner's World, who called the Congressman's campaign office and got the truth.
My family, my running friends, and some of my law partners know about my starting the thread. My five minutes of fame.
LRC: So what's your take on Paul Ryan's explanation on the discrepancy?
Bill Walker: I don't believe him. I think he knew the truth about his one marathon when he gave the interview, and he just didn't care if he stretched the truth if it made him look better to potential voters.