Friday, October 12, 2012

Run Time 

Read "Marathon Man" by Mark Singer in the New Yorker. Illustration, Peter Arkle

Lately, there's been a lot of talk of doping around Lance Armstrong (check Twitter for #DopeStrong, #Livewrong) and all those implicated by the USADA's investigation into doping in pro cycling. Unfortunately, some much admired riders have been found to have cheated including Toronto's Michael Barry. The upside of this has been riders like Barry, who have admitted to doping in the past and now ride clean, sound genuinely contrite. At least three riders for Slipstream sports have admitted to using for the very fact that they want to clear the air and start again, riding clean. Slipstream's manager, Jonathan Vaughters, has been open about past indiscretions and the desire for his team to ride and win clean. The default position of Armstrong remains to deny, deny and deny. Which in itself may indicate a darker nature to his personality. Like George Constanza said Jerry, "It's not a lie, if you believe it."

There's more than one way to lie and many more ways to cheat. This weekend the second of Toronto's two annual marathons1 is being run and with that in mind, and Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan's recent exaggerated claim (lie?) of a sub-three-hour time (he actually ran 4:01:24) it seems a strange coincidence that I finally got around to reading the story of Kip Litton. Kip Litton is a Michigan based dentist who had set a lifetime goal of trying to run a sub-three-hour marathon in all 50 states. His motivation was apparently to raise funds for cystic fibrosis research as his son has the disease. The only problem is, Kip Litton appears to be a cheat and a near pathological liar. His unusual and compelling story is told in the New Yorker by Mark Singer . It begins fairly innocuously but by the end you're just fascinated with the "why" and the "how".

Check out the story and ask yourself, "why?" I understand the bragging rights of lying about achievements. I'm sure I've exaggerated claims in the past, but when I started to exercise for my health and not my bravado, I realized the futility of stretching the truth. Why lie to yourself? What's the point? Whenever I'm entering my runs or rides into my log, I might be tempted to round up the distance and down the time, but it's more interesting to me to see my real improvement or deterioration. Lying about or cheating during amateur runs seems the same as writing in a private diary that you were a wealthy spy with a cavalcade of lovers left strewn around the globe. Why bother? Not to mention the effort involved in maintaining such a fiction. I can barely get around to legitimate web updates never mind inventing new ones.

FN1 - The course record for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is 2:07:58 for men, Jerome Drayton's 37 year Canadian record is 2:10:09. I never plan on running a marathon but even at my best 10 km pace I might be able to break 3:30:00 (though not bloody likely).

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