The importance of lying wisely

September 2, 2012 § 27 Comments

When it comes to lying, we all get a pass virtually all of the time. There’s no other way we’d make it through the day.

[Middle of bike race] “How’s it going?”

[Can barely keep from falling over] “Fine, you?”

[Customer] “Will these wheels make me faster?”

[Clerk] “Absolutely.”

[Guy with a huge inheritance] “Was it good for you?”

[Chick on first date] “It was unbelievable.”

[Wife] “Do these jeans make my butt look fat?”

[You] “No.”

The vast majority of our lies are permissive lies. The person receiving the lie knows it’s a lie, and in fact prefers the deception to the truth. Don’t believe me? Try answering “yes” to that last question the next time you’re asked.

Off limits lying

There is another group of lies that is off limits. You aren’t allowed to tell these lies unless you’re also prepared for a shitstorm of consequences if and when the truth comes out. Fortunately, this type of lie often comes with lots of warning signs. For example, if it says “Signed under penalty of perjury,” even if you don’t know exactly what perjury is, you sure as hell understand “penalty.”

Other little indicators are when, prior to being asked the question, someone commands you to “Raise your right hand.” In the personal sphere, off limits lies may be indicated when the questioner has her hands on her hips, or on a skillet, or on the trigger.

Sports lies and the lying liars who tell them

Political speech has for so long been exempt from any requirement of veracity that it is superfluous to remark after a debate or press release or interview, “He was lying.” Of course he was lying. He’s a politician. If we’d wanted someone to tell us the truth about our crumbling society and the sacrifices it will take to fix it, we’d have hired Mother Teresa.

At the other end of politics, where veracity is punished with getting booted from office, we have the world of sports. For the most part, sports, and especially professional sports, are also filled with lies and liars.

[Coach] “I’m not sure he’ll be ready in time for the big game tomorrow.”

[Player] “I didn’t bet on the outcome of my own games.”

[Announcer] “This game is going to be a thriller!”

However, and it’s a big however, there is one sport where mendaciousness will get you excommunicated once and for all and forever if you’re ever caught in the lie. The sport is running. The lie is about your time.

Why runners are so whacko about times

In cycling, you can pretty much fake anything, even in the “race of truth.” Spend enough money on equipment, or on a coach, or on “supplements,” and you can eke out a marginal improvement over what you did previously.

In mass start events it’s even easier. Get lucky and make the break. Sit wheels the whole race and sprint at the end. Have your teammates work their hearts out so that you can cruise in at the finale. Leapfrog your way from 50th to 25th in the last half-lap.

Running? Not so much.

Running is simply a sport of minutes and seconds, and the great unwashed majority of runners live and die by how much time it takes to complete a course. This is one reason that runners rarely suffer from the “professional masters racing syndrome” common among cyclists. As a runner, you know your PR. You know the times of your competition. They are either within reach (rarely, if ever) or completely beyond anything you could even think about doing in your wildest, craziest fantasy.

The hardest of the hard core

Of all the running disciplines, none approaches the majesty and respect of the marathon. The marathon is such a dreaded and awful event that millions and millions of first-rate athletes will never even attempt it, so terrible is its reputation. Those who do run a marathon invariably mark it as one of their signal athletic achievements. It is a high watermark of ability, endurance, preparation, and toughness, irrespective of the time it takes to finish.

Hence, the finishing time for a marathoner is unforgettable. It’s an indelible number, down to the second. This is partly a function of the horrific nature of the event, but it’s also a function of the preparation that such an event entails.

In order to run a marathon, you have to know how quickly you can run a mile. Those one-mile splits that you become intimately familiar with in training become the yardstick for your finishing time. There has never been a marathoner who did not know, prior to ever doing the race, a close approximation of their best possible finishing time.

In fact, the act of running the marathon is a mental and physical game of hewing as closely to your splits as possible. The worst thing you can do is to start off way under your splits. You’ll melt like cheese on a griddle.

No marathoner has ever been, or ever will be, confused about their finishing time

When you run a marathon, you will either be close to your estimated best time or horribly slower due to weather, injury, illness, starting too quickly, terrain, nutrition, or any other number of factors that can ruin you on race day.

What will never, ever happen is that, after thorough preparation, you will run an hour faster than your best estimated time. It’s not not humanly possible, and it’s easy to see why: If you were targeting a four-hour marathon, you’d need to run 9:10 miles. If you were targeting a sub-three hour marathon, say a 2:55:00, you’d need to run each mile in 6:41.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been beaten repeatedly about the testicles with a giant block of concrete, or if you’ve ever had root canal surgery without anesthesia, or if you’ve ever given birth through your anus, but that’s the pain differential for a person who runs 9:10 splits suddenly having to run even a handful of 6:41 miles.

Let alone the physical impossibility of suddenly churning out a string of 6:41’s, the mental impossibility is much greater, as if it even made sense to speak of degrees of impossibility. What’s clear to anyone who’s ever run a mile is that you can’t suddenly, or gradually, shave minutes off your splits in a marathon.

The anchor in the runner’s sanity

This is why, on average, runners are less batshit crazy than cyclists. They know that there’s no way they will ever go from running 9:10 splits to 6:41 splits, no matter how fancy the shoes, the coach, or the drugs. And because your times admit of so little improvement once you’ve become a conditioned runner, lying about those times takes on an outrageousness that can scarcely be described.

Lying about your race time is not simply ignoble, it is a complete repudiation of the suffering and preparation that is marathoning.

Cyclists, of course, lie all the time about everything. Runners? Not about their marathon times, because it makes a mockery of your fellow runner and, if uncovered, makes a mockery of you. You don’t simply become a gassy liar who can’t be trusted to recount his race time, like some douchebag golfer who kicks the ball and shaves strokes, you become the antithesis of integrity, the noxious weed that, if left unchecked, will overgrow the entire garden.

Once a marathoner gets away with lying about their time, the game is over for everyone, because in running, the game is the time.

How hard is it to run a sub-three hour marathon?

Consider this quote, from a guy who finished his first New York Marathon in 2:59:36. “…that was without a doubt the hardest physical thing I have ever done.”

The runner? Seven-time-strippee-of-the-TdF Lance Armstrong.

Breaking three hours in a marathon is so far beyond the realm of the possible for the vast majority of runners that, if you’re lucky enough and talented enough and dedicated enough to actually do it, it is a lifetime milestone. You would more easily forget the first time you got laid, or your birthday, than you would forget the time of your sub-three hour marathon, down to the second, especially if it was the only marathon you ever ran.

Which brings up another point. Unless you’ve run dozens of them, you remember every marathon you’ve ever run. And even more importantly, if you’ve only run one marathon, there’s no way on God’s green earth that you would ever, ever, ever think that you’d run several. It’s as impossible as thinking you’d gotten both legs amputated instead of just one.

So now the table is set. Dinner is served. Everyone, please come to the table and enjoy a helping of a lie so sick, so twisted, so profoundly fucked up, and so indicative of scumbaggery that when you read it, it should make your stomach turn.

Interviewer Hugh Hewitt: Are you still running?

Vice-Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan: Yeah, I hurt a disc in my back, so I don’t run marathons anymore. I just run ten miles or [less].

Hewitt: But you did run marathons at some point?

Ryan: Yeah, but I can’t do it anymore, because my back is just not that great.

Hewitt: I’ve just gotta ask, what’s your personal best?

Ryan: Under three, high twos. I had a two hour and fifty-something.

Hewitt: Holy smokes.

Ryan:I was fast when I was younger, yeah.

As we all now know, Ryan has only run one marathon, not “marathons.” And as we also know, his time was not 2:50-something, it was 4:01, a lie which should now speak, quite loudly, for itself.

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§ 27 Responses to The importance of lying wisely

  • Lisa says:

    Does this NPR kit make my butt look big?

  • Rick says:

    Obviously he is a politician, not a runner. And as you said, politicians lie, often, and without regret or consequence,

  • Big R says:

    A true candidate for “The Burning Ring of Liars” and not for vice president of the United States.

  • Jay LaPlante says:

    YESSSSSSS! Very well put sir!

  • Tom F. says:

    I would never have voted for him (and Romnney) no matter what, but having run some marathons, I agree with all your insights and it is evident he is trying to believe in his own fantasy persona. We don’t need this from someone who was supposed to be credible on the budget. No trust deserved….ever.

  • You nailed Ryan to the cross. Way to go.

  • Felix DiGiusto says:

    I wonder how many lies are in his budget?

  • murf says:

    Judged by a jury of his peers (Rommney, Obama, Biden, and every other talking head inside the beltway) his is innocent because he looks like he could break 3 hours and to them perception is everything.

    Mother Teresa? You must believe in the tooth fairy, go read ‘The Missionary Position’ by Christopher Hitchens.

  • Appie says:

    The country, and most states, are running off the rails due to the unsustainable growth of entitlements (ask the defacto bankrupt country of Greece how that turned out for them … with Spain & Italy not far behind).

    Obsessing about someone else’s inconsequential running times? Heck, I can’t remember my PRs on virtually any of the local climbs.

    Obsessing on the trivial, is a distraction from the real issues that afflict the country, after 4 years of the current polarizing, divisive, demonizing, demagogue-in-chief.
    Obama’s only hope for reelection is distracting the electorate from his dismal record of non-accomplishment, whether it’s a ficititious “war on women”, or “racism” under every rock.

    Go actually *READ* some of Paul Ryan’s presentations on US fiscal policy, instead of regurgitating MSNBC & DNC talking points, or uncritically accepting their dissembling distortions.

    I’ve made it easy:

    http://paulryan.house.gov/uploadedfiles/pathtoprosperity2013.pdf

    You can invest some time reading it, then if you disagree with Ryan, at least you do so on the basis of understanding his policies … as opposed to what some frothing-mad, partisan, op-ed columnist at the NY Times would have you believe.

    • Admin says:

      Being something of a frothing-mad, partisan blogger type, I’m not sure that this link will do me any good.

      However, you’ve missed the point. Paul Ryan, regardless of his political party, political ideology, or political policies, is a sorry fucking liar. If you lie about your marathon time, you’re a sorry fucking liar, too. Bicycle PR’s on some local climb have nothing, zip, zero, zilch comparison to marathon times. If you think they do, you’ve really missed the point, which is this:

      Only sorry fucking liars lie about their marathon times, much less by an hour, and only sorry fucking liars lie about having done “marathons” when they’ve only done one.

      When you say “entitlements” I assume you’re exempting all of the corporate tax giveaways that Ryan supports. I assume you’re exempting the treatment of corporations as real people, and I assume you’re exempting the newly discovered constitutional right that corporations now have to unfettered economic speech in the form of political donations.

      Why do I assume these things? Because I’ve yet to meet a Republican who will say in the same breath that we should roll back tax breaks to corporations first; we should eliminate corporate personhood first; we should ban all corporate money from political donations first before we chop one sorry fucking nickel from the welfare/entitlement/benefits that our government bestows on real, living, breathing people.

      You, however, might be the first, and if you are, it would (as Clint would say) make my day!

      • Appie says:

        Mr Wankie,
        “unfettered economic speech in the form of political donations”
        You mean like labor unions?
        The 2 largest campaign donors in CA are labor unions. The #1 “special interest” as guaged by $$ spent is the govt teachers union.
        Bar graph at a glance: http://tinyurl.com/c36b2ov
        Data Source: http://www.fppc.ca.gov/reports/Report38104.pdf

        Read an introduction to the legalized looting of the CA public treasury, thanks to the backroom deals between the govt unions and their bought-and paid-for Democrat legislators:

        http://www.mercurynews.com/california-budget/ci_21438816/bay-areas-250k-club-government-retirees-wont-be

        Only the corrupt state of Illinois is fiscally more mismanaged than CA.

        For the record, I oppose “crony capitalism” ie favors to politically-connected corporations. Exmpls: loser “green” companies (like Solyndra), corn ethanol, General Motors bailout, ad nauseum.

        I also oppose propping up govt labor unions that are bankrupting the state , to which a large part (if not majority) of Obummer’s nearly-trillion $ “stimulus” was wasted on … money that was either borrowed and has to be repaid by tomorrow’s workers, or was printed out of thin air (“quantitative easing”).

        Quantitative easing has led to debased US currrency and higher prices on commodities (like food and oil), and has decimated the retirement income of many seniors (0.01% return on your money market account, anyone?).

        You want “lies”? Well, Obama’s 2 (!) autobiographies have now been shown to be full of “composite” made-up people and events that never happened. His supporters at the NYT, MSNBC, etc, go to great lengths to downplay that and insist that the “themes” and “narratives” (what BS!) are still “valid”, but they are unable to factually refute any of it.

        I still think you’re obsessing on the trivial, ie Ryan and 1 stinkin’ marathon.

        Mr Wankie, I am disappointed in you. You fixate on some inconsequential, long-ago running contest, but you apparently can’t be bothered to read a serious economic proposal to restore prosperity and employment in America.

      • Admin says:

        If I disappoint at least one dedicated reader in a day, I feel as if I have done my job.

        You’ve not said you’re willing to strip corporations of personhood, or that you’re willing to take away their entitlements/welfare, or that you’re willing to strip them of the right to buy elections. That’s pretty much what I figured.

        You misunderstand what a labor union is if you think it’s equivalent to a for-profit corporation, but if the tradeoff for everything in Paragraph 2 above is taking away the right of labor unions to donate to candidates, I’m fine with that.

        You want to think that Ryan’s lie is meaningless. Then vote for him. I think he’s lying douchebag, and anyone who would like about his race time is one. Ask your marathon buddies.

        You’ll find the content here increasingly unpleasant as time goes by. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool political liberal, I like Obama, I think the Republican Party is a shitheap, and I think Lance Armstrong is, like Paul Ryan, an incredibly evil, lying, narcissistic prick.

        So don’t say you weren’t warned! It’s a big Internet, there are lots of right wing places to hang out where your views will go unchallenged and your beliefs won’t get tweaked and laughed at.

        But not here!

        On the flip side, no matter how pointless and stupid your political opinions, our local cycling scene includes people of all stripes, and we don’t choose up sides based on politics. Some of the guys I respect the most are complete fucking morons when it comes to political philosophy, and you sound like one, too. Bottom line is that your contributions are appreciated, even though they’re idiotic, and I hope you’ll introduce yourself on a ride one of these days so we can have a laugh and agree that we completely disagree. Or not!

  • Albacore says:

    Damn, I just came here to laugh about bikes ‘n shit. And yes, I suck as a cyclist, I suck more as a runner, but I know my 1/2 marathon times, I know my wife’s marathon times, I know exactly when I’ll finish any run I start, but on a bike I have no idea when, how, or if I’ll finish.

  • jack says:

    What I always say about the marathon, it’s the hardest thing you will ever do voluntarily.

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