On Why it's so Hard to Find Love & Forrest Gump

You're on your usual 6:30pm run. The wind's blowing strong on your face, it's freezing, but you've dressed appropriately. You remember this podcast on scientific reasoning as to why people have "aha!" moments when they're out in the wild, or running, or taking cold showers. 

A runner passes by. 

You keep running, with nothing much going on in your head, other than the fact that you're not really having much of an "aha!" moment. 

Another runner passes by. 

You're about 2.5km in, and you've crossed 4 runners running on the opposite side, but you haven't yet seen anyone running in your direction. That's funny, you think to yourself. Another runner passes, and now it's bothering you. Why are there always so many people running in the opposite direction, but only old and slow people running in yours. 

It takes you a minute, but you figure it out, and then it seems obvious. It has to do with the relatively equal average speeds of the runners and their initial starting positions. So, that would mean, if everyone ran the exact same speed, the only way they would bump into each other is if they started at the same position and ran together. But that's extremely rare. However, since humans run at varying speeds, the only way to cross more people along your path would be to either go super slow, or go super fast. You think this would be a fun math problem to see at what speed you'd have to run to cross more people. But another thought arises. 

Ha, funny, you think. This sounds a lot like life. We're all running, and we're all running the same average speeds - and that's why it's so hard to find a partner! To find a partner, you either have to get very lucky and start at the same position and run together at equal speeds (meet at university, or at a job), or slow down in life and hold on for people behind to catch up (spend your time scrolling through dating apps and going to bars actively looking for something to happen), or you have to speed up and get noticed (get smart, get rich, be more visible).

The podcast was right, there is something to being out running that gives you "aha!" moments. 

-

If you haven't seen Forrest Gump, I'd highly recommend it. Here's the arithmetic I did later. It's actually pretty straightforward and interesting. 

  • Average running speed ~ 10km/h. [8-12km/h] 
  • Average distance ~ 10km. So that's 5km one way. 
  • Next, the average number of people I cross running on the opposite side is about 20 tops.
  • Remember, this is all very hand-wavy and I've estimated numbers on the higher side. (I definitely don't think I cross 20 people.)
  • So, now let's say people are evenly distributed on the 5km stretch. That's 20 people spread across a 5km distance.
  • That's one person every 250m.
  • And that's a lot more distance than is visible in my runs due to non-straight roads.
  • Now, given that I run at 11km/h, how much time would it take me to overtake the next person 250m ahead of me running 1km/h slower than me?
  • Time to cross 250m traveling 1km/h faster than the person ahead of me is 15 mins
  • There we go! That explains why I rarely cross anyone, or anyone else crosses me.

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