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Out There: Back to School

Can you solve these running math problems?

I used to be that kid every fall—the one who became irrationally excited about going back to school each year. While other kids were playing kickball and building forts, I was stockpiling No. 2 pencils and practicing the fine art of removing perfectly straight pages from perforated notebooks.

Yes, I was a geek. Still am, actually. Though I no longer have firsthand experience the joy of an annual Trapper Keeper purchase, the stoke factor is high as I live vicariously through my nieces and nephews in their own back-to-school experiences. (They do not feel the same way about Aunt Susan and her irrational enthusiasm for old-timey words like “Trapper Keeper.”)

In fact, I’m so excited, I’ve been practicing my math skills using running-themed word problems in anticipation of the inevitable homework about to come my—I mean, their—way. Sharpen your brain and your No. 2 pencil—it’s back to school with running math! Go ahead, solve for X:

Q: Alex loves running hill repeats! This week, she did 10 repeats on a 70-meter hill with a constant 8 percent grade. What is the total elevation gain of Alex’s workout?

A: This is a trick question. Nobody loves hill repeats. Alex is a liar.


Q: After the final 20-mile training run of their marathon training, Karen and Jason decide to go out for post-run brunch. While Karen is not looking, Jason steals one of Karen’s four chocolate chip pancakes. How many pancakes does Karen have left?

A: Four pancakes and a Jason with a stab wound. Jason should have ordered his own damn pancakes.


Q: Heidi has a plan to start her 10K race conservatively, then increase her pace by 10 seconds per mile with each passing mile. If Heidi begins at a pace of 9 minutes per mile, what will be her pace at mile 4?

A: Zero minutes per mile, because Heidi ran into someone who stopped short to take a selfie at the Mile 4 marker.


Q: Your favorite running shoes are on sale at your local running store for $39.99 per pair. If sales tax in your state is 7 percent, how many pairs in total can you buy with $300?

A: Wait, wait…there’s a running store that sells shoes for $39.99? For both of them? Why are you standing around doing math? Go! GO! Buy them all!


Q: While doing a speed workout at the track, Julie’s coach comments that she could go just a “smidge” harder. Julie then drop-kicks her coach horizontally at 8 meters per second off the top of the bleachers. What is the final velocity of Julie’s coach?

A: [Redacted by Competitor’s legal counsel. Drop-kicking your coach is not advised, even if they are acting like a total a-hole.]


Q: Russ always receives four safety pins in his race goody bags. Even though he never uses them for his race bib, he always sets them aside just in case. One race morning, as he’s about to leave his home, Russ realizes he needs a safety pin to fix his timing chip. If Russ has done 76 races in his lifetime, many safety pins are waiting for him in the drawer? 

A: None, because no one has ever been able to find a last-minute safety pin on race morning, ever.



About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). Susan lives and trains in Salt Lake City, Utah with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete husband. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke.