Marathon Man

A few issues ago, The New Yorker published a fascinating investigation into the miraculous and suspicious marathon times of a 48 year old Michigan dentist named Kip LItton. I meant to link to it, but the article was behind a paywall online.

Now, given the recent revelation that Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan lied when claiming he ran a sub 3:00 marathon (he actually ran a 4:01:25), the Kip Litton profile has been unlocked. It's well worth a read.

The Boston course has a reputation for toughness: the Newton hills, which runners encounter between miles sixteen and twenty-one, owe their notoriety to the fact that they must be climbed when the energy reserves of runners are greatly depleted. How was it, McGrath asked, that on the most leisurely stretch—just before the halfway mark, near Wellesley College—Litton’s pace was a full minute slower than it was in the hills? Litton’s Boston race in 2009 had the same incongruities.
McGrath learned that, in February, 2009, Litton had run a fifteen-kilometre race in Florida. According to the split times, his pace during the second half—five minutes and twenty-four seconds per mile—was almost two minutes faster than during the first half. Such a divergence is called a “negative split,” and a variance of that magnitude is as common as snow in Miami. Nor did Litton’s past performances indicate an ability to run a five-and-a-half-minute pace. The official timer of the Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon, reflecting upon Litton’s purported acceleration, told me, “I don’t know any Kenyans who could do that.”