08 January 2017

Why are we sleeping?

Why, alternatively, was I not sleeping for about 4 hours in the middle of the night? Too many thoughts in my head. It didn't make for an easy morning run, so my plans for a longer outing were quickly dropped and I plodded round and round the playing fields again for a little over 5K. I guess I needed to recover from yesterday's much faster 5K and my legs started out feeling pretty leaden - they improved with use though. Yesterday, to avoid my usual problem of not remembering whether I have run two or three laps of the field at Didcot, and also applying the very useful tip handed down by Emil Zatopek to later generations of runners to touch one's thumb with a fingertip to reduce tension in the shoulders (it does seem to work), I lightly held first my index fingers to my thumbs, then on the next lap my middle fingers then next time round my third fingers. Just to be sure I didn't forget, I moved on to the little fingers after I crossed the start line for the fourth time, to remind me to take the yellow brick road instead of heading off on another lap. That's fine for four laps, but I was planning nine or ten today. Well, I can work through the fingers of one hand then move on to the other, and after I have done eight laps I'll be able to do the rest from memory, I thought. I also thought, what does it matter anyway? I'm measuring the distance with a GPS watch. But a better method of counting came to me at that point, in base 4 (or is it base 5? Actually I think I have done a bit of both here, which shows what a rotten mathematician I am). Those of us educated long enough ago to know about pounds, shillings and pence, or yards, feet and inches, or stones, pounds and ounces, are accustomed without really knowing it to working in base 20, 12, 3, 14, and 16 and a few others too: metrication has taken so much of the mental challenge out of life. Alex Bellos's wonderful book Alex's Adventures in Numberland reminded me of all this a few years ago. Anyway, to count laps of the playing fields, use one hand to count the first four laps, then the other hand to record one unit of the first power. So at the end of lap one I touch the first finger of my left hand to the thumb. At the end of the second lap it's the middle finger, etcetera. At the end of the fifth lap, touch the tip of the first finger of each hand to the respective thumb and using the "units" hand, count off the next four laps until it's time to register that you've completed another set of four. If you go past sixteen laps, take a shoe off and try to count the four-to-the-power-twos. But if you're running that many laps you might want to find a less boring route.

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