By now, you've probably heard that Paul Ryan said he ran a sub-three-hour marathon, when really he'd run a 4:01:25 marathon. Kudos to the Letsrun.com message board for raising the yellow flag and Runner's World for following up on it.
Now, as someone who is an aspirational marathon runner, I'm impressed by anyone who actually completes a 26.2 mile course and I try to stay out of our political coverage, so let me recommend Jim Fallows on the meaning of the exaggeration.
In reading the coverage, what's fascinating to me is 1) How active and impressive the Letsrun.com forum is; 2) how many vice presidential candidates in recent years have run marathons; 3) how good Sarah Palin is at the marathon. Check out this handy chart I made with Runner's World's numbers.
What's awe-inducing about Palin's feat is that she accomplished it at 41 after having four children, while Ryan's mark was set at 20 and Edwards' best came at 30. There are only about 40 thousand women who were that fast or faster in 2011. (More comparisons: The average marathon time for a woman aged 40-44 in 2011 was 4:47:34. The average for a man aged 20-24 was 4:22:48.)
If you're wondering what pace these race times correspond to, a four-hour marathon requires running 9:09 miles, which doesn't seem that hard until you've run a couple dozen of them.
Alexis C. Madrigal is a staff writer at The Atlantic and the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology.