Brenda… McVinua was working as a volunteer in the “chute” near the finish line, and was impressed with the former vice-presidential candidate’s form. “She wasn’t even breathing hard. You could tell she’s an athlete. If you didn’t know better you would have thought she’d just run around the block once or twice.” – Storm Lake Pilot Tribune

Photo posted on Gretawire 04 Sept 2011

Because this photo struck some of us as odd, 184 commenters joined me in actively pouring over all the available photographs chronicling the events of 04 September 2011 in Storm Lake Iowa. This is what I (we) believe really happened at the SLRC Jump Right In & Run Half Marathon on 04 September 2011 and why.

What we know w/comments in italics:

Sarah Palin had been under scrutiny in the blogs for more than a month for her increasingly gaunt physical appearance. Rumours surfaced from an anonymous commenter at The Immoral Minority claiming to be linked to Sarah’s inner circle of loyalists and claiming that he/she had personal knowledge of Sarah being so obsessed with her weight and appearance that she was binging and purging food and taking non-prescribed diet pills. (For the purpose of this narrative, it matters not that these rumours prove true or false, only that Sarah knew the rumours were circulating. It is Sarah’s personal writer Rebecca Mansour who unwittingly outed Sarah as keeping up with the Alaska, anti-palin blogs.)

Sarah was registered to run in the SLRC race before her trip to Iowa on 02 September 2011. She was registered under her maiden name, Sarah Heath. Running in the event was not something she or Todd could have arranged at the last minute, it was scheduled in advance. How far in advance, we don’t know, but SLRC rules did not allow for impromptu entries. This provided ample opportunity to survey the course and grounds.

Sarah and Todd stayed at the Kings Pointe Hotel (see yellow #1 in the map below) the night before. They would not have needed to check out until after the race, meaning they would have had access to the room during the race.

Todd picked up her running packet early. Sarah would not join the other runners until closer to the 7:30am race time, but we know she was recognised as a gentleman identifying himself as Teledude later wrote on his pro-palin blog that his wife, a participant in the race, recognised Sarah at 7am and called him from the course on her cell to urge him to drive out to get a glimpse of Sarah and Todd. He was instructed to not say anything to others as Sarah didn’t want it known she was there. The race was personal she’d purportedly whispered to the woman, thus assuring her silence.

Three races were run simultaneously that day. The half marathon, a half marathon relay and a 5k run/walk. The half marathon runners lined up on one side of a grassy meridian while the 5k runners/walkers lined up on the other side. All the races began at the same time, the centre meridian dividing the half marathon racers from the 5k racers for several metres.

Hours after the end of the Jump Right In & Run half marathon race, after winners had been determined and medals handed out, the photo at the top of this post was published on Gretawire, a blog belonging to Greta Van Susteran of Fox News Channel and offered as a news release that Sarah Palin had in fact, earlier in the day, run in the SLRC race and even took second place in her age group. It was noted that Sarah had fooled everyone by registering under her maiden name (Sarah Heath) and not even the race officials recognised her until after she crossed the finish line. Her official time of 1:46 (13 consecutive 8 min miles) would be published the following day in the official .pdf results posted on the SLRC website.

On Monday this photo emerged of Sarah walking across the finish line

The red jumper and white headband were gone. For five days these would be the only photos posted anywhere online showing Sarah as an active participant of the race. Privately taken photos of Sarah and Todd after the race (the 2nd place medal strangely looped over her arm) showing Sarah posing with race organisers and participants surfaced by Monday night on the flickr account of one of the organisers. By now Teledude had posted his one photo of Sarah standing with him and his wife with the chute in the background.

The official photographs posted for view and sale on the SLRC website appeared five days later. There were two photos taken of Sarah placing her, in both shots, with the 5k pack, and both appear to have been taken at the beginning and early leg of the race. There are no photos of her at any of the water stops or anywhere else along the route even though there was more than one official photographer taking photos that day, that the number of registered runners was relatively small and that most other runners can be found in multiple photos, throughout the entire half marathon course.

There are photos taken that show Todd behind the finish line, beside the chute. He’s holding a rolled-up bright red fabric, the same colour as Sarah’s red jumper. It was reported that Todd ran interference, hurrying Sarah through the candid photos taken after the race with other runners and locals, ostensibly to get her aboard an awaiting plane.

This is the (7 mile long) map showing all three race courses:

What we think we know w/comments in italics:

I (we) believe the initial photo posted on Gretawire is a composite of different photos taken by Todd at the beginning of the race and emailed directly to someone in the Palin camp to be merged into a single image showing Sarah pulling away from the back of the 5k pack, presumably to show her darting ahead and join the other half marathon runners. Todd was seen, recognised and spoken to in the starting area of the race and he could have stood in one spot and clicked different views of the 5/k runners as they went by. (No one ever stepped forward to claim photo rights to the only photo shown round the world of the famous Sarah Palin running a 13 mile race – and no exif info was ever retrieved from the image.)

On the map above, the half marathon course is shown in blue, the relay in dark red and the 5k in bright red. Sarah could easily have stayed on the 5k course, unnoticed, wearing the red jumper and wide headband as she bobbed in between the runners who had already seen her wearing them at the start. She could have ducked into the toilet (green T near yellow #3) and removed her visor, headband, numbered bib and red jumper, waited for Todd, strolled back to the hotel or blended in with other bystanders, confidant that none of the 5k runners or walkers or any passers-by would have taken any notice of her without the identifiable running togs.

She might have even stuck it out long enough to run the first half of the 5k course, ducking into the hotel as she passed by the parking lot.

I’ve not said this before because it sounds so James Bond-ish it’s almost embarrassing – on the other hand, this is Sarah, for whom nothing is too outrageous, so forgive the slight melodrama but here’s a thought… It is possible the wide headband had a purpose. The compression-bandage sized width and thickness would have covered and held in place a Bluetooth earpiece by which Todd could have helped her leave the course without being seen. Sarah could have let him know when she was approaching a pre-arranged spot and waited for him to tell her no one was looking. An earpiece – admittedly a far-fetched idea on my part- would allow any number of scenarios, each rife with an opportunity to cheat.

But even without fancy gadgetry, Todd and Sarah had ample time the night before to walk the track and make a plan. They had plenty of time to select areas that would seem convenient to slip out of and back into the race. If they didn’t communicate via electronics, Todd could have planned to meet Sarah at a predetermined point. He could have given her his big blue jacket and shielded her from sight until it was time to walk back to a point near the end of the race where she could just slip back in. No longer in the red jumper and headband, no one would have paid any attention. Todd could have dumped water on her shoulders to hide the fact she wasn’t over-heated and sweating. Then Sarah could have run a short distance to clock-in at the finish line in just under two hours – exactly one-half the time of her record run back in ’05 for exactly one-half the distance.

According to the article in the Storm Lake Pilot Tribune linked above: Sarah reportedly said “Boy that was fun!” as she crossed the finish line. And according to their eye-witness, Brenda McVinua, she wasn’t even out of breath.

Wow. What a great image for a mother of five and White House aspirant!

Food for thought: If Sarah’s record-breaking run in a 2005 marathon of 3:59:36 (26 consecutive 9 minute miles) was legitimate, she might have assumed she could go half the distance six years later, with little or no training. (If it wasn’t legitimate, she might have used the false time as a measure for how fast she needed to finish half the distance to appear legitimate.)

Whether she and Todd Googled half marathon schedules or called in favours, she was registered to run in the SLRC race before her trip to Iowa on the 2nd. In a small race, in a small town and registered under her maiden name her presence would not have been expected, allowing her to blend in with the other racers until she was ready to reveal her identity.

Appearing in a half marathon would conveniently dispel the rumours of Sarah being unfit physically. The irony of running a race in the month of September would certainly not be lost on her and would probably signal renewed hope and energy to those supporters she’d just disappointed less than 24 hours previously by not announcing a 2012 candidacy.

I’m sure some of you are going to make me wear the Bluetooth comment. No worries. I learned a long time ago that in order to get to one truly good idea you have to wade through about a hundred really bad ones. But before you start the head-shaking and mocking, humour me for a few seconds more. Go back and take another look at the half marathon course. While you’re looking, mull over the fact that Todd is photographed in the finish line/chute area holding the red jumper which Sarah is neither wearing nor holding as she crosses the finish line. If Sarah ran the full half marathon, how did Todd know where – in 13 miles of track over 7 miles of ground – to pick up the red jumper and headband? If they pre-arranged a pick-up, how did Sarah know – before the race – when she would need to take it off?

I didn’t know this before the SLRC race but according to real marathoners who commented on my early questions, runners routinely use disposable clothing specifically so they can pitch layers as they warm up and not worry about losing items of value. Why didn’t Sarah just toss her red jumper? She’s a millionaire after all. She could have tossed her jumper and bought a dozen more in the hotel gift shop an hour later.

And why was Todd holding the jumper, all bunched up in a wad to begin with? Why would he walk around with this in his hands for 30 minutes to an hour – or more? Why not just put it in their room or leave it in the car? Either would have been conveniently close by. It crossed my mind that perhaps Sarah didn’t toss the red jumper during the race because if she’s not a real runner – like me – she might not have known that’s what other runners do. It’s more likely that in an effort to fake participation, she would have deliberately given Todd her jumper to purposefully hold onto the ten or fifteen minutes before re-entering the race so no one would question where it went….

Running With Sarah: Did she or didn’t she? (Summary Part 3 to follow)

[Back to Summary Part 1]