Science Museum’s “Time Traveler Pi Miler” To be Run at 1 AM

 Science Museum’s Jim Rollings as Doc Brown – in a DeLorean.
Science Museum’s Jim Rollings as Doc Brown – in a DeLorean.

Dressed as Doc Brown from the “Back to the Future” movie series, Science Museum of Western Virginia executive director Jim Rollings roared up to the entrance of Center in the Square, staying in character, to announce a unique foot race on November 2.

Well, not so unique: its been done elsewhere but for the first time in Roanoke. The Time Traveler Pi Miler Race will take place at 1:50 am (yes, that’s AM as in the morning) on November 2. Its 3.14 miles along the greenway, slightly longer than the typical 5K (3.1 miles) – and equivalent to the mathematical number associated with the symbol of Pi. Just about what you would expect a Science Museum to offer.

Rollings said they hope to raise $10,000 for its educational programs from the race. Starting at 1:50am on November 2, 10 minutes later the clocks will be set back one hour to Eastern Standard Time – thus those starting the race will appear to have finished before they began – that’s where the Back to the Future reference comes into play.

“Our group of runners will take off on a run like none other you’ve ever seen … and we will propel you back one hour,” said Rollings/Doc Brown. At the finish line a party features Benny Marconi’s pizza, beer and coffee. (see the science museum website for more information.) “[I’m] going back to the future,” said Doc Brown as he headed towards the DeLorean again. Out of character, Rollings said a collector, a software engineer in Blacksburg, had the DeLorean and “had always wanted one” after finishing college.

Before that race happens the first-ever Virginia Science Festival will end its week long run this Saturday (October 11) in downtown Roanoke, after kicking off last weekend in Blacksburg, and at several sites around the state. The Science Museum of Western Virginia conceived the Virginia Science Festival and turned it into an affair it hopes to grow in the coming years.

There are several events leading up to Saturday’s grand finale, which includes a STEAM Walk (Science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) from the Taubman Museum through downtown, to Elmwood Park and Jefferson College of Health Sciences, with exhibits and hands-on activities (see for more information.

Then there are free trolley rides over to the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute on South Jefferson, where people will have access to buildings normally not open to the public. “We hope to see lots of kids … and it’s free,” Rollings pointed out.

Rollings said almost 200 people were involved in planning for the first Virginia Science Festival and added that, “the city of Roanoke has done so much to support it.” That includes making venues like Elmwood Park available for the event. The Science Museum of Western Virginia recently received a tourism grant from the state to help out with the festival.

The city lent the festival Elmwood Park and the Star City trolley line at no charge, Rollings pointed out. “Those are fantastic levels of support for a first-time festival,” said Rollings. Among the highlights this Saturday are an inflatable earth dome filled with activities and an inflatable version of the Orion space capsule now under development, both courtesy of NASA-Langley. There are also about 25 other exhibits.  “It’s all hands-on, it’s all free, that’s why we call it a festival,” said Rollings, still wearing his Doc Brown white-haired wig to announce the Pi Miler on November 2.

 Gene Marrano