Story Time with Uncle Tyson

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Cube Mile

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Author: Ian Winokur
Originally posted on this Yahoo! group post on May 20, 2008.

Hi folks,

Just wanted to share a recent cube story with you.

I teach at Deerfield Academy (an independent boarding high school in Massachusetts). One of my calculus students is the fastest distance runner at the school. I am a casual runner at best but I decided Anthony and I should have a race. About two months ago I told him that my mile time was about 8 minutes and I asked what his was. He replied “about 4:30.” I decided this would be a really boring race unless we somehow handicapped it. Enter the Rubik’s Cube.

I told him that we should solve a Rubik’s Cube first and then run the mile, fastest total time wins. He said “but I don’t know how to solve the cube.” I told him that he’d better learn soon! We set the race for May 13th. I started training for the mile (with some help from the track coach here) and Anthony started learning the cube (with some help from me and from a student here who can solve it in about 50 seconds).

I got my mile time down to about 6:20 in 7 weeks (my fastest mile ever was 6:04 but that was 8 years ago when I was in grad school) and he got his cube time down to about 90 seconds on average. Word spread quickly about our race and the students were pretty excited about it. When the Dean of Students heard about the race, he decided that the entire school should be there so 15 minutes before the end of the weekly all-school meeting last week, he had all of the students and faculty head down to the track to cheer us on.

I was expecting to cube in the low 20s and mile in about 6:15 for a total of roughly 6:40. Anthony was expecting to cube in 1:30 and mile in 4:20 for a total of 5:50. On paper this was not going to be a close race. I was just hoping he would have a bad cube so I wouldn’t get blown away.

For the record, our cubes were scrambled in exactly the same way. The students lined both sides of the first straight-away and really got into the race. They cheered when Anthony (aka Skinny) took off his outer shirt to reveal his running jersey and they cheered when I took off my sweater to reveal a Rubik’s Cube shirt. I also loved their enthusiasm when I finished my cube. Their reaction was even better when Skinny finished his cube and took off like a rocket. When Skinny finished his cube he tossed it to a friend and then started his run. I assumed that this was planned but I later found out that his friend wasn’t expecting the cube and got clocked in the chin. Alas, this wasn’t caught on tape.

Here was the breakdown from the actual race:

My cube: 19 seconds (about average for me but pretty good given the

My mile: 5:54 (a new personal best by 10 seconds!)
Skinny’s cube: 1:45 (about 15 seconds slower than his average…nerves
got to him a bit).

Skinny’s mile: ?? (I don’t want to ruin what turned into a good race
but he was expecting to run a 4:20 or so)

Two different cameras caught the action. In the first clip, the race is unedited. In the second clip, I cut out most of the mile and just showed some highlights. I think they’re both fun to watch so check out each of them if you have time. Watch the first one first.

Ian Winokur


Written by macky

December 6, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Posted in Anecdote

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