Monday, October 10, 2005

Once upon a time...

This last winter I got a call from a new client. Actually, three new clients since it was three women that wanted to train together. I met them at the local park the next day so that I could see what shape they were in and start them off on a running programme. LEAD-girl was the one that had made the call. She was the obvious group leader because she talked about seventy percent of the time and answered for the others even when she wasn’t called upon. Very pretty, by the way. FAST-girl was the fastest in the group. She mentioned that she’d been running for awhile, but she seemed fine about coming along for the ride and slowing down to run at the other’s speed. SHY-girl was the most soft spoken. She didn’t really say much and sort of looked like she wasn’t comfortable about doing this whole thing with me. She was also overweight by about thirty pounds, which doesn’t sound like much except that she is five foot six inches and it all sat on her rear. I watched them run, showed them some exercises, timed a kilometre where FAST-girl came in first, LEAD-girl came in second and SHY-girl came in third by over a minute. I explained the programme for the first month and gave them an appointment for the next. They trained with me the whole winter, through cold and wet and snow. Nothing seemed to stop them. Each time we met I saw that they had a little more enthusiasm and that most of all they were improving. Surprising, the one who was improving the most was SHY-girl. She was a little less out of breathe and she was asking a few more questions each time. I also saw her small hidden talent: she moved her feet really well. What most runners don’t understand is that in running, your feet are what make you move. Most people concentrate on getting an aerobic base (very important), or getting strong legs (also very important), but the area where you can make the most improvement is in using your feet the proper way. If you have a strong heart and legs and then shuffle your feet, you “X” out the first two factors. SHY-girl moved her feet. Tick-tick-tick-tick-tick she’d run by me, still red in the face and still a little out of breathe, but faster and more at ease every time. LEAD-girl started to have trouble because, on the other hand, she had a really long gait. CLOMP-CLOMP-CLOMP-CLOMP she’d run past me as I timed her.

Sometime around february it became inevitable that I’d have to start giving them individualized running programmes if they wanted to further improve. I knew that they were running faster, but since I needed to put some numbers on the amount of improvement they’d had I asked them to run 1km on the track so that I could get a better perspective of their speed. I started FAST-girl off first ‘cause I knew that she was still going to be the leader here as far as pace was concerned. LEAD-girl went next followed by SHY-girl twenty seconds later. After one lap around the track something strange happened: SHY-girl was gaining on LEAD-girl. As they rounded the corner SHY-girl picked up the pace and just went flying by her. At the same time LEAD-girl, as soon as she got passed, immediately stopped in her tracks and started to walk. She wasn’t even going to finish the last lap. She came over to me and started to talk about feeling tired lately and that something was wrong. I asked her a few questions (are you eating nutritious foods, do you have your period, are you working a lot?) and then asked her the final one: “I noticed you stopped just as SHY-girl passed you...” Suddenly LEAD-girl turned into this venom spitting, green tailed psychopath. She started yelling about how she was always first in everything she did, that she couldn’t lose, that she wasn’t going to stand for having SHY-girl pass her. I tried to explain to her that this wasn’t a race it was just to see where they all stood and that it would help me to calibrate the running load so that I could give her a programme to help her improve. But at that point there was no way to reason with her so I just let it go. SHY-girl looked shyer than ever and FAST-girl just looked the other way trying to pretend that nothing was happening.
A month went past and I didn’t hear from them so I wrote a group email asking how things were going. LEAD-girl said that she was injured and wasn’t running as much. She talked about some sort of inguinal pull...then a month later talked about a hernia in her neck (very rare, and I assume that she got it from her job as an estetician since she leans over a lot for most of her operations). FAST-girl was vague about everything, but I sent her a programme anyway. SHY-girl said things were going great, had I heard from the others? And when did I think that they would be up and running together again? I told her that it was hard to tell since I didn’t really know what LEAD-girl was doing. I started to send SHY-girl her programme again. This time I knew how fast she was running so it was easy to write and even easier to see fast results. Since I knew that she would now be running alone I invited her to come running with me and some of my friends, which she did. It’s on one of these runs that she told me about how the whole drama behind this group started to unravel. After the track episode, LEAD-girl had started to speak badly of me. She said that I didn’t pay enough attention to her and that she was going to be looking for someone else to train her. We all knew what had really happened: she was used to being the center of attention and all of the sudden, with SHY-girl passing her, she was now the last in the group. A position that she obviously wasn’t used to and refused to be in. From this one single episode I know that the threesome is no longer running together. They still speak to each other, but it’s become tabu for them to even talk about running. LEAD-girl is still running but is being trained by someone else. I know she’s had various injuries that she still hasn’t healed from. FAST-girl is also injured and looks like she’s gained a few. SHY-girl is still training with me and she completed her first half marathon last month with a time of 2h13’. I am trying to have her meet as many “nice” runners as I can. It is now my mission to get her to become as efficient a runner as she can. We have a plan, we will follow, vendictive? Maybe, but at least one nice runner will benefit from it.


anji said...

Hi Julia!
I could almost tell from the beginning what was going to happen! :)

congrats on your shy-girl! I hope she becomes less-shy over time and opens up even more :)

dg said...


Wow, what a story. Why can't people be bloody supportive of each other?

And hurrah for Shy Girl, I say.

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