Saturday, 12 September 2009

Alan Turing


Mathematician Alan Turing is rightly regarded as a war hero and the father of the modern computer. During the Second World War, Turing worked tirelessly at Bletchley Park’s Station X, where he was a key member of the team which unlocked the secret of the Enigma code used by German U-boats. His work directly saved countless lives and helped to ensure the Allied victory. After the war, he moved to the University of Manchester, where he became deputy director of the computing laboratory and worked on the first modern programmable device, the Manchester Mark 1.

Memorial statue to Alan Turing in Manchester's Sackville Park

In 1999, TIME Magazine named Turing as one of the 100 Most Important People Of The 20th Century for his pivotal role in the development of the computer. In what turned out to be a very US-centric list, that was some acknowledgement of Turing’s work (see http://www.time.com/time/time100/scientist/profile/turing.html).

Tragically, due to Turing’s homosexuality, he was prosecuted for gross indecency in 1952. The conviction ruined his career and he committed suicide at his home in Wilmslow two years later, aged just 41, by eating an apple which he had injected with cyanide. It’s a little-known fact that Apple Macintosh’s logo – an apple with a bite taken out of the side – is considered to be a tribute to the great man, in grateful recognition of his pioneering computing work.

This week, Alan Turing received an apology from Prime Minister Gordon Brown (see http://www.number10.gov.uk/Page20571). Mr Brown said, “It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of World War Two could well have been very different. He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war. The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely.”

“While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can’t put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him.”

“So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better.”

You may be wondering why Alan Turing is being featured in a marathon running blog. Well, on top of his other achievements, Turing was a world class marathon runner. In 1947, he completed the Leicestershire Amateur Athletic Championships Marathon in a stunning time of 2:46:03. Bear in mind that, in 1947, the world record stood at 2:29:19. Even as an amateur runner, who could only train in his spare time, Turing was managing to get that close to the record. To put it in context, it would be the equivalent of somebody like me running next Sunday’s Berlin Marathon in 2 hours 21 minutes. Given that, even with a good head start and a following wind, I’ll be lucky to finish within 3 hours 45 minutes, you get some idea of just how great a marathon runner he was.


Turing competing in 1946

In spring each year, the Ely Runners stage The Turing Relay, which is a six-stage relay race on riverside footpaths from Ely to Cambridge and back. These paths were where Turing trained while he was a Cambridge don. It looks like a fantastic event and a memorable way to acknowledge a great man. I may suggest to TEAM fivemarathons that we enter next year. In the meantime, I’d better go and pack for Berlin.

Barcelona, 1 March 2009
London, 26 April 2009
San Francisco, 26 July 2009
Berlin, 20 September 2009
New York, 1 November 2009

This week’s training schedule:

Monday, 7 September 2009 10 miles steady
Tuesday, 8 September 2009 Rest
Wednesday, 9 September 2009 6 miles steady
Thursday, 10 September 2009 6 miles easy
Friday, 11 September 2009 Rest
Saturday, 12 September 2009 4 miles easy
Sunday, 13 September 2009 3 miles easy


Christies is the charity which provides funds for, and supports, the work of the world renowned specialist cancer centre, The Christie, in Manchester (see www.christies.org). Macmillan provides practical, medical, financial and emotional support for people affected by cancer and campaigns for better cancer care (see www.macmillan.org.uk).

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonschristies

www.justgiving.com/fivemarathonsmacmillan

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NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004