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:
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
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
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
Note the runner - well, walker/staggerer - who's stopped to take a
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
Ok, she's deliberately hamming it up for the camera... But not by
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
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:
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: eiπ = -1 has been called the most
beautiful equation in mathematics (some versions have it as eiπ
+ 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
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,