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Mince 3.14159265358

As you are all well aware, runners have a somewhat eccentric relationship with reality, but is it better or worse than that of maths geeks? Enquiring minds need to know, and this might just be a way to gain some insight.

The following exchange appeared on the Facebook page:

Simon Cutmore 3.14159265358 days?
Mince Pi Run: races of 2 decimal places No Simon it's 3.14 as it's races of 2 decimal places

I looked at it over Amanda's shoulder and said, "Oh, three point one four one five nine two six five three five eight" without actually having to read the digits from the screen. Apparently Merilyn's husband Damian did the same. Oh dear, what are our girls letting themselves in for...?

Well whatever it is, they can start by giving me a flash of their Christmas goodies!

The start is in a big frosty field. A field, as any mathematician will tell you, is something you can do arithmetic in, but this is a field you can do running in.

Ok, I see lots of people running, but whether any of them are also doing arithmetic, I can't really say.

The race is mainly pretty flat, apart from one hill. You can see the ruined church at the top from here, and it's not really very high. But that rather underplays the excitement of the ascent, as we shall see.

O    M    G...   That's not just steep, it's pure sand. Well, I say pure, but lower down there's a lot of slippery wet leaves to make it more difficult.

Note the runner - well, walker/staggerer - who's stopped to take a picture:

It's very pretty if you aren't running up it.

A chap actually pulls his daughter (I presume it's his daughter, not his unfeasibly young mistress; I don't think this is the kind of thing unfeasibly young mistresses do) up. And there's me thinking that young people are supposed to help the old folk!

And as I depart the scene for now, the official photographer struggles up it. She won't do this a second time.

A moment of quiet reflection for Merilyn.

And ditto for Amanda.

Then it's back up that hill!

The descent of that hill is much easier, and it comes back onto the towpath alongside a small tributary stream. There's a tiny little stone bridge and it would be very photogenic if I could get the right angle, but that would require me to get into the stream and sit on a muddy verge. There are limits to how far I am prepared to go for Art, and that's definitely beyond them. Instead I will show you the plaque containing a philosophical poem. I will bet money that none of the runners noticed it!

This is looking down from the bridge that carries the Pilgrims' Way across the Wey Navigation. The runners run down the left bank (after descending the hill), then come back along the right. From there, it's just a short hop to the start/finish line for another lap or an honourable discharge according to choice.

Well there's another face we know! Steve Winder actually running at this point. Although it's hard to tell, I think that all the people who'd been in front of him earlier were doing short sprints of maybe just one or two laps, and he's now well in the lead of the harder core.

Ok, she's deliberately hamming it up for the camera... But not by much!

A large part of the race involves following the Wey Navigation towpath. The route passes a couple of locks, so obviously it's not completely flat, but near-as-dammit compared to St Catherine's Hill.

At this point, I should possibly mention that we originally thought it was St Martha's Hill that the runners had to climb, which is not as steep but much longer and still on sand. If I'd been waiting to photograph people there, I'd have felt rather foolish! I did manage something comparable to that on Amanda's first Surrey Slog, but these days me and my GPS, we have it sussed :-)

"I am not getting my feet wet!" Merilyn performs a rather spectacular leap over a puddle. I fear this is too little too late: there's rather too much water and mud around to pass dry-shod without stilts or a jet pack.

A little further back, Amanda crosses one of the locks.

While I'm standing at the lock, a chap in a National Trust jacket asks me if I'm associated with the race. No, I say, just a hanger-on, but if you want to get in touch with the organisers, try their Facebook page (which is really all I know). Seems he's got no knowledge of the event and they've not had permission from the NT to use their land, where much of it takes place. As we know from talking to Dr Rob and Nicky and others, getting all the necessary permissions is one of the biggest jobs any race director has round these parts, and it's particularly surprising as this isn't the first time the event has been run. He tells me that one of the marshals told him they'd got permission from the local council, but of course the NT would know nothing about that.

Let's hope that everything is resolved amicably: it would be terribly sad if a fun event like this were to be killed by organisational naivety.

But back to the running: Steve W is looking frisky! I don't think he's on the same lap as Merilyn or Amanda, though.

Clearing the woods, this is the view back to the start/finish point.

Four laps - near as dammit a half-marathon - and Amanda is ready for her mince pie. We know that Merilyn intends to go for the full ten, but Amanda is only a little bit crazy, not the full monty. [We will later discover that as the weather deteriorates, even Merilyn isn't that crazy, and calls it a day after a mere full marathon.]

A star jump with a mince pie in each hand, so consequently a bit less vigorous than some. It would be sad to crush the mince pies to sticky crumbs for the sake of a post-race photo!

We wait for a little bit in case Merilyn is near the end of her lap, but it's too cold to hang around. Amanda then runs back the half-mile or so to the car so she can feel a warm glow of righteousness that she hasn't only done almost a half, but actually run the full distance.

On the way back, we see Merilyn crossing a field (still probably not doing arithmetic). Bye then! All being well, we'll see her at Bushy Park for the Christmas Day parkrun.

What can I say? Build your own mental picture.

I will leave you with some fascinating (and true!) facts:

  • You can measure Pi by throwing a needle onto a US flag many times over. This is an extremely bad method, but it is a method.

  • In Biblical times Pi was equal to 3. 1 Kings 7:23, says: "Also he made a molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, [...] and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about". Either that or God made a mistake. Perhaps he was a runner, not a maths geek.

  • Euler's identity: e = -1 has been called the most beautiful equation in mathematics (some versions have it as e + 1 = 0, which is the same thing but I think it's not as beautiful). Apparently Gauss thought that anybody to whom this identity was not immediately obvious was never going to be any good as a mathematician. Ok, maybe it's not obvious but even so, it's really really cool. Honest, take my word for it.

  • I mentioned earlier that I (like many others) could reel off twelve digits of Pi without thinking. The world record for remembering digits of Pi is currently 67,890 (yes, 67,890, not a typo), but then since Pi has infinitely many digits, there's really no difference in the larger scheme of things :-)

Hoping nobody's head has exploded!

Love to all,


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