Saturday, November 10, 2012

Investigative reporting

I was inspired by the Runner's World take-down of Paul Ryan, so I thought I'd look into the NY Times report that Paula Broadwell taped part of her biography of David Petraeus while running 6-minute miles together in Afghanistan.

I've run a few 6-minute miles -- a very few -- so I was pretty sure an athletic late-30s woman and an athletic late-50s man would find it quite difficult to converse with any substance at that pace.

According to Athlinks, Paula Broadwell (assuming I have the right one -- the name and age fits) is indeed athletic, with at least one 1:36 1/2 marathon and a handful of mid-20s 5Ks and mid-40s 10Ks to her credit. David Petraeus doesn't just look it -- he is very athletic. In 2002 at age 49 he ran 1:03:46 in the Army 10-miler. That's serious speed. A reported 33-something 5 miler is also very respectable.

But neither of those sets of results suggests somebody who can run 6-minute miles, much less converse while holding a 6-minute pace. OK, so this isn't the expose of the decade, but it's my own little contribution to the marketplace of information.

UPDATE: I've had a short e-mail exchange with a "Senior Editor for Standards" at the New York Times. The characterization in the article comes from Broadwell's co-written biography. Here I quote him quoting the book:

"[Petraeus] had invited Broadwell to join him and his team for a run along the Potomac River. 'I'd earned varsity letters in cross-country and indoor and outdoor track and finished at the top of my class for athletics at West Point; I wanted to see if he could keep stride during an interview. Instead it became a test for me,' she wrote. He eventually increased the pace 'until the talk turned to heavy breathing, and we reached a 6-minute-per-mile pace. It was a signature Petraeus move. I think I passed the test, but I didn't bother to transcribe the interview.'"

The Times' characterization (relevant portion quoted below) was something quite different!

"She had unusual access, she noted in promotional appearances, taping many of her interviews for her book while running six-minute miles with Mr. Petraeus in the thin mountain air of the Afghan capital."

1 comment:

  1. Apparently it wasn't just the running times: