## Sunday, May 10, 2009

### Hitting the Mathematical Wall

What is it about long-distance running that affects one's (okay... MY) ability to calculate simple math problems?

This has happened more times than I care to admit, but most recently during my long run yesterday morning. Though I was aiming to hit a total of 14 miles for the day, I wanted to make it a point to note my time at the half-marathon mark (13.1 miles) because I was pretty sure I was on a personal best pace for that distance. When I hit mile 9, I knew I was exactly six miles away from home.

That's where things started getting fuzzy.

Now, I have a copious amount of training when it comes to calculating math problems, including but not limited to: balancing my checkbook enough to know I probably shouldn't have written that last check, figuring the discount on a sale item at the store in anticipation of learning I can't afford to NOT buy it, deducting the amount of tip my waitress will receive every time she forgets to refill my drink, multiplying how many servings of miniature candy bars are in a bag to make sure there's enough to supply the appropriate sugar high for my daughter's school class for her birthday, adding up how much money we don't have for retirement, giving the cashier the right amount of money to ensure I get back the least amount of pocket change, computing my next paycheck to make sure I'm not getting shorted (again), multiplying how many cups of flour would go in a cookie recipe if I'm doubling it, etc. and so on. The list is endless, really. It should be obvious by now I'm a veritable mathematic genius.

Why then, at mile 9, could I not wrap my head around the fact 9+3=12 and not 13?

I don't seem to have trouble with any other intellectual endeavors during long runs. I never end my sentences with prepositions; I wouldn't dare mix acid with cyanide salt; I don't embarrass myself in the company of French-speaking dignitaries by asking to ride a poulet instead of a cheval; I wouldn't be caught dead confusing the Spanish-American War with the Mexican-American War and I sure as hell don't use "there", "their" or "they're" incorrectly.

But add 9+3? Apparently, that stumps me.

I did eventually figure out that 9+3 does not equal 13 and never will, but only when I actually looked at the numbers on my GPS screen and realized I still had more than a mile to run.

I've learned my lesson, however. In the future, I've pledged to consciously prohibit myself from doing any kind of math whatsoever while on the run.

No more calculating how many spoonfuls of Moose-Tracks ice cream I can eat after my run without feeling guilty. No more contemplating how many children we should have before we can't feed them anymore. No more adding up how many miles are between God-forsaken Idaho and the white sandy beaches of Montego Bay. No more dividing my late-grandmother's inheritance to determine if my share will cover the cost of a new big screen LCD TV with a surround-sound stereo system in the finished basement.

And definitely no more adding up how many miles I have left to run.

Better just to be left in painful mathematical ignorance.

Christie said...

I was just thinking about you the other day. I was gonna email you actually. I'm glad to see you're still around. Maybe you wanna take an abacus out for your long runs. lol

Mel said...

Great post! LOL. I look forward to meeting you in June.

Mel -Tall Mom on the Run said...

That is a GREAT POST!!! I totally go math braindead when I am on the run. My calories are calculated on my Garmin which is based on my height, weight, age, pace, etc.. I am not sure how accurate it is and I have read about the 100 calories per mile. Stumped me too...could have been all the hills I fell upon while I was LOST..

Velma said...

Hillarious post. I have the same problem, and I also am math challenged in the pool! Thank goodness for the Garmin

livelypen said...

Moosetracks, huh? I wonder if the calculation for Goo-goo Cluster or Cheesecake ice cream is different.

Jen said...

I have the same problem. I've just concluded it's a lack of blood supply to the brain. It's all going just to keep my legs and heart going.

Melissa said...

Yup, I've done that too. From mile 14 to 18 I was continually convinced I had 10 miles left of my first marathon.

Dr.Rutledge said...

Hi,

Great funny post. I too sometimes have lapses in my arithmetic skills.

I'm a physician and former faculty member at Harvard and Stanford Medical Schools. I discovered your blog while looking for the best health writers on the web. I reviewed your posts, and think your writing would be a great addition to the Running Community on Wellsphere, a top 5 health website that has nearly 5 million visitors monthly. If you would like to learn more about how you can join our Health Blogger Network, republish your blog posts and be featured on the Wellsphere platform, just drop me an email at dr.rutledge@wellsphere.com.

Cheers,
Geoff

Lili said...

Ha ha ha ha, you are too funny!!! I can't do math when I run either. The cool part is that I spend so much time trying to multiply things that before I know it I've run a long way and none of the calculations really matter anymore cause I'm done! =)

Nitmos said...

So, will you be able to get the TV? I wouldn't ba able to stop thinking about that. Forget the miles and paces and distances. LCD TV!

sue said...