Tangled up in Blue: Finding an average

By KAT SORENSEN

While running the Kenai River Half Marathon last Sunday, here are some of the things I thought about: fall colors, sunglasses, whether I should finally start drinking Gatorade, the playlist I was listening to, socks, O’Reilly Auto Parts, their catchy jingle and last year’s race.

That was in the first five kilometers, and then my mind went where it usually goes anytime I run for longer than a half hour — math.

In school, I had an affinity toward geometry and calculus. Instead, I pursued a career in writing, causing a lot of those skills to run off. I still enjoy thinking through simple equations in my head, though. Send the dinner bill my way. I love figuring out the best tip (especially if it’s split into separate checks!).

While running, simple math problems aren’t laid out in a checkbook in front of me, though. I have to go searching for them. Sunday, I started by counting my steps, a tried and true mental pastime that would put me to sleep if I wasn’t moving my feet forward.

I counted to 761 steps in, roughly, a half mile. So, I take about 1,522 steps in one mile. If that held true for the entire race, I took 19,938 steps. I know there are watches and apps and more that do all this for you now, but my Casio from Fred Meyer’s has just a stopwatch.

Then, I thought about my upcoming flight to New Jersey, which I had just found out is about 3,385 air miles. If I had to travel back to visit my parents in terms of half marathons, I’d run about 258 half marathons. If my pace on Sunday was any indication of how long that would take, adding a half hour break in between each section of 13.1 miles, it would take me 774 hours, or just about 33 days, to travel from Ted Stevens International Airport to John F. Kennedy International in New York.

I’d still ask my mom to pick me up at the airport, though, because those last 75 miles to my hometown in New Jersey would be a killer. I’ve run up some silly mountains, but I don’t ever plan on running across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

With the help of my trusty Casio watch, I was able to start figuring out times as well. Over the course of six miles, I ran each mile somewhere between 10 minutes and 10 minutes and 30 seconds. That, I remembered, was about a minute and a half quicker than my average mile pace last year. So, if I multiply a minute and a half by 13, I could finish the race 19 and a half minutes quicker than last year.

Turns out I was a little off, I ran it 22 minutes faster. The margin of error was in my favor on race day.

Comparing my race this year to the 2017 race took me down another route — mathematical comparisons! And, guess what I found? I’m slowly becoming average!

Last year, I came in 61 out of 74 women in the Kenai River Half. I was in the bottom third of finishers. Bummer. But! This year, I came in 51 out of 90 so I finished faster than 44 percent of racers, versus only 32 percent. And, if you run through the other races I was in this summer, there is a general trend of me getting more and more average.

In the Mount Marathon Race, I finished just faster than a third of the other female racers at 176 out of 264 (giving me a chance to race again next year, hopefully with a slightly more average result). Then, during the Lost Lake Breath of Life Run, I really solidified my average results by finishing in the 52nd percentile.

So, I’m getting average and, after 13.1 miles of running through Kenai on a beautiful fall morning, I have the means to prove it.

Something I can’t prove? That I ran 22 minutes faster because of all the Rihanna on this year’s playlist. But you’re going to have to trust me on that.

Kat Sorensen is a writer in Seward, Alaska. She can be reached at katsorensen.nj@gmail.com.

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