Concepts familiar from grade-school algebra have broad ramifications in computer science.
Greg Raposa of MIT Libraries ran the Boston Marathon on a lark a year ago, crashing the race as a "bandit" without a number.
This year he'll be running in the marathon on April 21 as a member of Team Brigham--with a number and a purpose.
"I am using this opportunity to thank Brigham and Women's Hospital for the excellent care they provided to my father during the last years of his life," said Raposa, the library system's facilities and operations administrator. "The staff of the hospital was always very accommodating and professional and I wanted to show my appreciation."
Greg's father, Frank, an MIT Facilities employee, died in 2001 at Brigham and Women's after a long battle with heart disease. He was treated for several years by the staff of the hospital.
Members of the Brigham and Women's team run to raise money to support community health programs. Each runner has to raise $2,500 by soliciting friends, neighbors, colleagues, strangers, lovers and anyone else they can think of to sponsor their effort. The deadline is May 15. "I need all the help I can get," said Raposa, who is from Plum Island.
Like many of his teammates, Raposa is not swift enough to earn an official number by completing a qualifying marathon in the required minimum time (at age 38 he would have to run a 26.2-mile course in 3:15). His unofficial time in last year's Marathon was 4:11. Members of charity teams receive an official number in exchange for their fund-raising efforts.
Raposa started marathon training in December with an eight-mile jog in 70 minutes. He will run 21 miles on the official course on March 29 from Framingham to Boston, which includes the hills of Newton.
"Not bad for a guy who started running to lose weight and because I didn't want to be another cardiac arrest candidate, since heart disease ran in my family," said Raposa, who is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 200 pounds. Before he took to the roads in 1998, he weighed 240 pounds.
Members of the team train together Saturday mornings where the focus is the long run. Raposa runs five to six miles along the Charles River at lunch time four times a week.
During his workouts, he concentrates on breathing and form. "When I'm done, I think about eating junk food," he said. During the marathon he will think about how "thankful I am that I'm able to run and how I can get a number next year."
For additional information, see http://www.geocities.com/gregraposa/teambrigham.html.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 19, 2003.