Concepts familiar from grade-school algebra have broad ramifications in computer science.
Andrea Hatch started running at age 32 when her son Jim was in grade school and needed a parent to accompany him in an 11-mile "generation race" that combined their times.
She has been running ever since.
Hatch, 59, an administrator at the Picower Center for Learning and Memory, will be competing in the Boston Marathon for the 26th consecutive year on Monday, April 21.
"I'm not really into the streak thing that much," said Hatch, who has been at MIT for 22 years. "Running marathons is something I want to do as long as I'm able to do it, for all of the reasons that I've enjoyed running and the company of runners. I like being fit, and there is carry-over into other areas of my life in terms of what I'm willing to try and the confidence I have. But if some year it doesn't work, it doesn't work. I don't see myself crawling over the finish line at midnight."
A year after the "generation race," Hatch officially started the Boston Marathon streak (she jumped into the race as a "bandit" without a number in 1977, so that doesn't count). Her best time for the 26-mile, 385-yard course was 3:16.01 in 1983.
Hatch's first memories of the Boston Marathon date back to childhood, when she joined her grandfather along the route as a spectator. Women were not allowed to compete in the race in those days and becoming a competitor did not enter her mind.
"When I got interested in running as an adult, I thought back to that time," recalled Hatch, whose husband, Harold, a former marathon runner, has been coaching the women distance runners at MIT for three years. "And when I started running, I naturally gravitated more toward the longer distances."
Hatch won three Cape Cod Marathons from 1978 to 1980. Her best time was 3:09.22 in 1980. She also has won the master's division of the Cleveland Marathon in 1987 and the 0ver-50 division of the Houston Marathon in 1997.
Hatch and her daughter, Sarah Wright, were mother-daughter winners of the Avon Global 10-kilometer Championship in 1999. Sarah, who now lives in Colorado Springs, took a sabbatical from running to give birth to twins a year ago. She is back in training with a marathon running group.
While Jim runs little nowadays, his mother kept up the tradition of "generational" running last Saturday by joining Sarah's group in Colorado for her final long-distance workout before the marathon. This time Hatch pushed twins Adabelle and Wesley in a baby jogger for six miles during her 11-mile run.
Hatch competes in two marathons a year. Her time for Boston last year was 4:39.30. Look for her along the route on Monday. She'll be wearing number 18340.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 16, 2003.