An episode of the TV series West Wing has Pres. Bartlet confronting his staff with the complex problem of getting two enemy leaders to talk peace rather than continue warring. The president said “I want to hear your ideas – all of them – no idea is too stupid.”

What’s wrong here?

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On Sunday 04 September 2011 after the photo came out on Gretawire (above left), some of us rolled our eyes at the prospect of Sarah actually finishing a whole race. I mean it’s not like she has a great track record for finishing what she starts. On the Monday following, after a few flippant comments had flown about the blogosphere, Joe McGinniss posted the photo of Sarah crossing the finish line (above right), a screenshot of her official score and a scathing reprimand to all of us who (according to Joe) were behaving like mean girls in light of Sarah’s obvious athletic achievement. Her score was recorded. She therefore finished the race and earned the medal. Case closed. Move along children…

The scolding, coming from a man who was only days away from releasing the most brutal of expose`s yet to be published about this very same woman struck me as – well, weird. Joe had made many mean-girl statements about Sarah on his blog. Still – here was a brilliant author taking us to task so out of respect I looked again.

Alas, as many times as I looked at the photo in his post and then at the Gretawire photo, trying hard to see the validity he was seeing all I saw was the polished edges of a scam.

Who runs 13 miles in under two hours and leisurely walks across the finish line?

How does a person sweat all over their shoulders and upper chest without having a droplet around their neck, hairline, face, underarms, breasts?

Clearly that huge splash on Sarah’s shoulders had to be water. But what, if one is not over-heated and sweating, would necessitate the need to be cooled off via drenching?

How does a woman run 13 miles in full face and eye makeup and not have one iota of mascara dribbling down her cheeks?

Why weren’t Sarah’s cheeks flushed and skin mottled?

Why wasn’t Sarah doubled over trying to catch her breath?

How does any large-breasted woman run 13 miles without confining her girls in a proper sports bra?

Nobody is that great an athlete thought I…

This image also emerged on that Monday from one of the organiser’s Flickr accounts. It was taken just after the medals were awarded, not long after Sarah crossed the finish line. This particular photo did Laura Novak’s head in because of Sarah’s makeup which looks freshly applied.

To quote Laura:  For all the strange phoniness about this story, it’s the make-up plastered on the face at the end that kills me.

Laura has personally run marathons and won medals. She has an entirely different take on what transpires before, during and after crossing a finish line. Laura was instrumental in helping a few of us iron out some of the finer points of marathon protocol. I’ve linked to the article itself (above). It’s a lovely read and her writing is so detailed it had me longing for my city of birth.

Sarah’s hair looks bone dry and there’s not one hair stuck to her neck at the hairline. Even her bangs – that were matted and damp less than a month earlier at the Iowa State Fair after doing nothing more than walking around talking to people – are completely dry.

The photo would later cause a guest named Mel to roll her eyes as she noted the water splash in this shot, taken after the one crossing the finish line, appears to have still more water applied to the tee. Why?

Many of the oddities which initially caught my attention in comparing the Gretawire photo to the photo of Sarah casually strolling across the finish line were proved early on to be either outright off-pudding on my part or completely inconsequential. On the other hand each wrong turn exposed something new to explore – what is it they say about innovations and accidents? Being wrong can be just as fruitful as being right. I embraced my wronghood and soldiered on.

My friend Gryphen, author of The Immoral Minority, poked fun at the Gretawire photo as well but instead of writing his opinions in a post, simply pointed to my post from his, linking his very busy blog to my tiny, little, quiet one. It overwhelmingly registered almost a year’s worth of traffic in 8 days. For me the experience was not unlike riding out a San Francisco earthquake of respectable size, but without my Aunt Ellen’s treasured China plates falling off the wall. It was exhilarating, terrifying and a miracle that I didn’t get fired because I got no work done at all for more than a week. And at the end of the day I got to know a lot of good people and I’m hopeful there were sturdy friendships made during the journey.

“Sarah leapt from the back of the pack like a gazelle with a lion on her ass” –OzMud

Taking the advice from the West Wing writers, I asked my guests to take risks. To share every thought no matter how silly or foolish it might sound because the whole point of understanding Sarah Palin is to understand those three principles set down by her recent biographers Frank Bailey and Geoffrey Dunn.

In Sarah’s world:
1. It is easier to lie than to tell the truth.
2. No lie is too outrageous.
3. Sarah is utterly obsessed with her public image and would do anything to protect it.

In order to uncover the truth about Sarah Palin we need always to think outside the norm, to embrace the most outlandish of outrageous ideas and to not be afraid of being wrong in the process. Something was amiss with these photos. No idea would be too stupid to not discuss.

The following image is a map of the top 25 issues noted by the 184 commenters and myself who took part in this exercise over the course of those eight days. There were many, many more observations made and noted, but these seemed the most frequently visited.

Pet names evolved describing the other runners in the photo to facilitate discussion as none of us knew them personally. In the end we jointly grew rather fond of them all and found most of the nicknames to be rather endearing.

Below the map is an index of each noted image flaw. Factual or probable explanations for them appear in [purple brackets]. No info in [purple] means we have yet to agree on a reasonable explanation other than – she cheated and the image is photo-shopped.

This is the result of our 8-day photo-opsy:

1. Feet appear to be floating with no thought given to the fact Sarah is about to slam her foot down partially on lawn and partially on concrete curb.

1. Odd pixelation pattern on left side of toe. [Probable cause: image compression]

3. White smudge on pants below left knee appears on right leg at finish line. [Smudge is actually a brand name which is on both legs but gets caught up when fabric rolls]

4. Appearance of dent in black pants (foreground) at white shoe (background). [Possible cause: compression of image. I am still not convinced. It looks to me like the common mistake in photo-shopping of trimming away too many pixels on the overlaid image.]

5. Was the red sleeve deliberately trimmed away to show bib number? (Where did the red jumper go? Has the bib number been enhanced?) [Red jumper held by Todd at finish line – no conclusion on the other]

6. Is this a collar to a third jumper? [Believe it’s the neckline of the grey tee pulled up for some odd reason]

7. Why the over-sized headband? Where did it go? [Band probably a throw-away.]

8. Toes of two white shoes behind the leg not one – so can’t belong to the lady in khaki shorts. Someone else?

9. Oddly shaped shoe – flapping wings or laces maybe? Two curved rows of white pixels float above the heel like motion lines in a cartoon. Where’d they come from?

10. Bottom of shoe has no curve at all – looks like it was cut at the seam above.

11. [Teletubby] Oddly shaped shoes. Are there two? Are they both in the air?

12. Curb disappears. Concrete ends at soil edge then green lawn.

13. [Teletubby] has no facial features. None. Figures farther away from camera have more.

14. Looks like sewn in seam from trees down to shoe at #9.

15. Squared-off curb returns.

16. [Bunny Hop Lady] Running in place? At this angle wouldn’t she fall?

17. Why is she the only one looking at the camera?

18. [Red Bandana Guy] Not his ponytail – neck is perfectly shaved and hair is short-short.

19. [Boofy hair] Whose hair is this? (We decided it was probably not Ponytail girl as depicted in the 7th post). But where is the runner’s body?

20. Runner missing lower buttocks and entire right leg from upper thigh to foot. Is left leg too small for this big man?

21. Rounded, bevelled curb appears.

22. Double foot? Is one shoe stepping on top of second shoe?

23. Runner missing foot. [It’s possible his ankle and large foot are hidden perfectly by the other runner’s thigh but not many of us are buying that.]

24. [Red Bandana Guy] hovering like Sarah above the ground.

25. Why the short distance between walkers still in their close pack and runners spread out and in full sprint?

Plausible explanations have been expressed for 7 of the 25 oddities. #9 through #14 have also been attributed (by more than one commenter) to the result of compressing a larger image – but – as many of us have reservations about the seam left behind and as I’ve never seen a compression leave that long a straight ‘seam’ I’ve chosen to leave all the idiosyncrasies they proffer in the unresolved pile.

Even if there were only a few unresolved details in this photo left to mull over and wax philosophic on, I fail to see how any rational-thinking person could look at the sheer preponderance of problems this photo presents and still ask us to simply ignore them all and move along…

I have great respect for those educated professionals who have taken the time to stop by my blog and offer the reasons they disagree with this project – and even those who have on other blogs discarded my observations as stuff and nonsense and a distraction from real issues of the day. That said, at the end of the day I’m obliged to follow my instincts, not those of someone else. And the bottom line for me is – it’s entirely possible these photos can prove Sarah Palin faked this race subsequently cheating two real, hard-working, tax-paying Americans from receiving medals they honestly earned.

If undressing that sort of public fraud is distracting – we clearly live in two different worlds.

If nothing else, doubting-bat-thomases riddle me this: Why does Sarah appear more relaxed and rested in the shot of her crossing the finish line than in the shot of her taking off in the purported first few metres of the race? Because the face of the lady in the red jumper is so distorted from what looks to be a jaw-clenched, struggled expression, (one that is normally associated with extreme physical exertion),  that many of us assumed it was a different person altogether.

Yet we would be wrong. Both shots are of Sarah and just one hour and forty-six minutes after her face is twisted from having physically run only a few metres we find our darling of the tight abs set strolling effortlessly across the finish line of a 13 mile race, powder dry, even-breathed and quipping “Boy that was fun!”.

How did the eye witness at the finish line describe her again? Oh yes – it was as if she’d only just run around the block a few times…

Running With Sarah: Did she or Didn’t she? (Summary Part 4 to follow)
[Back to Summary Part 2]
[Back to Summary Part 1]

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I have to run… Sweat is my sanity. A great frustration I had during the campaign was when the McCain staff wouldn’t carve out time for me to go for a run. The days never went as well if I couldn’t get out there and sweat. – Sarah Palin  Runners World Aug 2009

It’s a bit back to front I admit, but after the dust settled on the week-long photo-opsy of the Gretawire picture and while putting together a summary of sorts to close the book on the subject, yet another puzzling observation surfaced, this time popping out at me from *a comment previously overlooked in my endeavour to deal with just the photographic evidence on hand. But I believe the train of thought evoked by this comment belongs at the front of this piece rather than at the end as it speaks directly to the validity of Sarah Palin’s public record as a runner, and I think it would benefit anyone reading the summary to be aware of these facts – and they are documented facts – while digging through the preponderance of anomalies discovered in photographs the Palins offered as proof positive that Sarah earned her silver medal at the Storm Lake Running Club on 04 September 2011.

For the record – there is no public record of Sarah Palin being an avid, dedicated runner capable of setting records and winning top medals.

Among Alaskans, Sarah’s name is associated with a marathon remembered as Running with the Devil but the remembered date varies between 2001 and 2003. I’ve performed searches on archived run results from 2000 to 2004 and neither her married nor maiden name appears in official results of archive searches associated with this event.

The name Sarah Palin surfaces in running circles for the first time in the 2nd Annual Curtis C. Menard II Memorial 5k/10k run in 2003 held in Wasilla AK. Sarah ran with Todd, Bristol and Willow in the 5k run.

Their recorded ages and times were:

Sarah Palin, 39, 23:50.30
Bristol Palin, 12, 39:19:40
Willow Palin, 8, 43:53:30
Todd Palin, 38, 55:28:50

Sarah’s name next appears in 2005 where her recorded time of 3:59.36 set a record in the Humpy’s Marathon. There is no public record of her training for this race, nor have any anecdotes of her training in private ever emerged (that we can find) in Alaska newspapers (not even in Wasilla where she had been mayor for several years).

In 2009 Sarah publicly announced her intent to run in two separate charity events, both of which she exited in the early laps claiming both times the press she’d attracted threatened to ruin the integrity of the race for the other runners. (It’s fair to note that both of these charity runs would have been photographed anyway, with or without her presence.)

Save a single episode in high school where her participation in a basketball game earned her the nickname Sarah the Barracuda, no college, university, high school, private gymnasium, community sports club or local joggers ever came forward during the 2008 campaign with photos or anecdotes of Sarah as an athlete, much less a dedicated, top-notch runner. Surely the McCain campaign would have jumped at the chance to pony up such a story…

Other than these four events (a 5k run in 2003, marathon in 2005 and two incomplete charity runs in 2009) there are no photo-based stories backing her (many) claims of being a serious runner who for her entire adult life has run “at least 3 miles” per day (whenever she can). She has, however, been paid handsomely for more than one photo op-ed which touts her as such.

To maintain a body so disciplined one can – on a moment’s notice – step into a race without the usual physical preparation, even 15 and 20 years after high school, and after having birthed 4 or 5 children to set record times and rake in top medals – one must surely be a profoundly superior athlete. But those of us who have followed Sarah for the past three years just find this explanation – odd.

And if that thought isn‘t curious enough on its own, some of us also find it odd that there is no documentation of Sarah’s lifelong journey as an avid runner. None. No team photos from her days in college, no community runs organised as mayor of Wasilla or even as governor of Alaska. In Sarah’s own words I have to run… Sweat is my sanity.

This is the age of IPOD. Where’s the candid footage of Sarah doing all this running?

Raw talent only goes so far. Athletes who excel in their sport make certain commitments to train, practice and participate in local, state and national events. There is evidence Sarah Palin may indeed have the raw talent but there’s not one shred of evidence she’s made the commitment or puts in the time necessary to turn that talent into record-breaking, medal-winning athletics.

Not without cheating.

*From AKShutterbug (whose comment below made us look beyond one race and into the entire history of Sarah Palin the runner. I have not been able to confirm the validity of this comment – but after looking through Sarah’s sparsely documented public record I have no reason to doubt it.)

 “Actually she faked the run in ’05 too. A few years ago when I was looking into the “Humpy’s” race in Anchorage she supposedly ran, I noticed something very interesting in the results. A very good friend of mine (who has been running marathons for years and spends a tremendous amount of time training) was listed as having finished one spot ahead of her. So I called her up and asked her if she knew that she had finished just ahead of Sarah Palin and her response to me was just laughter. She said that Sarah was never in that race.

 Sarah has some weird obsession with making people think she is a runner. When she came here to Valdez in ’07 to announce what that years PFD was going to be, Sarah stepped off the plane with spandex and running shoes on. Her handlers kept insisting that she wanted to go running with our HS cross county team but it was only 10am and the kids were in school. Her handlers kept berating the Mayor until he finally called the school and managed to get most of the team excused from 8th period so she could go “running” with them. They all met out on the track, Sarah posed for a few pictures with them and then left. She didn’t lift a shoe and after making everyone jump through hoops for her, it ended up being nothing more than another photo op. She’s a complete and total fraud”

[To Summary Part 2]