Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.
In my day job I teach English, which means I deal with words – the power of language, the beauty of literature and the nuances of meaning. I get easily carried away in my passion for the finer points of my subject (you should see me when I teach the end of Act 1 in A View from the Bridge!) and tend to find mathematics a bit trickier as my brain sees the logic in language rather than equations. Yet when it comes to running, particularly marathons, I turn into a number nerd and geek out over all sorts of data. So in a bit of a break from the norm, today I’m focusing on figures and bringing you some mathematical finds…
First up, a couple of articles crunching the numbers from the recent New York marathon. This event continues to dominate my news feeds as it is such a big deal in the racing calendar and provides plenty of material for various commentators to write about. The first, from Forbes, was published in advance of the race and covers some interesting statistics around the race, highlighting how different it is now to the first event back in 1970 when there were just 55 finishers. No, that’s not a typo – 55 finishers in a race that now attracts over 50,000 entrants! If you enjoy storing up random facts and statistics to rattle out over dinner, then this is the article for you!
Second, some post-race analytics I found on another running blog. The blogger has extracted data and broken it down into various areas such as demographics, nationality, age groups, etc. I was pleased to see 41% of the field was female, and was very interested in the data revealing that over 50% of those women were over 40. Like always, I’m intrigued by the stories behind the data. Raw figures are interesting, but like the perennial inquisitive pupil, I keep asking why! Still, if this sort of analysis interests you, there are links in the post for a similar breakdown of the Chicago marathon.
Next up, it’s the turn of The New Yorker and another pre-NYCM piece. This one deals with the fascinating topic of predicting the eventual winner of a race based on real-time data being transmitted by sensors worn by the runners. The theory is that rather than looking at the raw data in isolation, it’s the changes in that data that are of interest in predicting an outcome. This kind of technology is already being widely used in cycling to transit live data which informs team tactics. With the recent rise in technology such as power metres for runners, I suppose it was only a matter of time before someone looked to make running data more quantifiable.
Also playing the numbers game is the Sub-2 hour marathon project. I shared an article the other week which questioned who this project was really for, and this week I have a bit more information about the project itself. The writer sets out some of the statistics behind the men’s marathon and the variables required to break the two hour barrier. Thinking about whether or not someone can run a marathon faster than two hours (without doping) is a very interesting proposition as there is inevitably a limit to what the human body can achieve. The question is on which side of two hours does that limit lie?
And finally, if you fancy doing a little bit of maths of your own then why not take a look at this puzzle from The Guardian this week. Interestingly, I immediately knew the correct answer when taken as a “yes or no” proposition and could explain why it was the answer, but didn’t get as far as working out an equation to prove it. Instead, I created all kinds of narratives around the question asked, proving yet again that my mind tends more towards the story than the logic! Let me know how you get on…
Happy reading (and calculating!),
The Running Princess