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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Spatially Unaware (and Dangerous!)

Last night I went to indoor track practice. The coach is really good about asking if we have new people because he wants to be sure they understand "track etiquette." These are the rules on where to be on the track so every can do their work and be safe. There are just a few pretty straightforward rules.

1) When you run your "hard/timed" parts of the workout, you run in the first lane, the inside-most lane. And, you run single file. We typically runs in packs that are about the same pace, so there might be a group of five folks in a line.

2) When you want to pass, you look behind you to be sure no one is coming. Then you move out to lane two, the lane outside of lane one, pass, then move right back into lane one. You do not pass on the inside of lane one.

We had about 60 people on the track from our club and maybe another 15 from a second club, so the tiny (200 meter) indoor track at Tufts University was pretty full. It's fun running with that many people since you get to say "hi" and "good job" to your fellow runners and hear it back from them (when they are not out of breath).

My group was only two last night - me and Aaron. As we worked through our several mile repeats (run a mile, take a short break, run another mile...) we found ourselves behind the "Bobsy Twins." The two very pretty girls had pony tails and ran together, side by side, one in lane one and one in lane two. They chatted continuously during the miles. Aaron and I chat, but not continuously, and not much at all by the last few laps of each mile. The Bobsy Twins were a bit faster than us, so we didn't catch up to them, but the faster runners in the club did.

A big pack of runners, mostly men, but with a few ladies passed me and Aaron.  I called ahead "Train coming!" suggesting it was time to get out of the way or be run down. I then said, "Tuck in," a term we use on the track and one I've heard cycling as well. The idea is to get in a single line so runners (or cars) can pass safely. The Bobsy Twins, to my shock, moved out to lanes two and three, where they were nearly run down by the startled leaders of the big group. Some fancy footwork and clever use of hands and arms prevented a pileup.

I wondered if the Bobsy Twins even noticed that everyone else was running single file? I wonder if they noticed no one was running in lane two, except when they passed? I was disappointed and a bit angry, when on the next mile, the Twins returned to running side by side, across two lanes.

These ladies didn't seem to be fully aware of the space, the rules of the space, and more concerning, didn't learn from their near collision. I wonder if these ladies are good drivers. Do they keep right when going slower and pass on the left? Do they watch traffic and how it behaves to learn how to navigate it safely? Do they tease out the rules if for some reason they do not know them already?

I asked the coach to talk to them and be sure they knew the rules. But I fear something more basic is missing for these ladies.  They don't seem to have the awareness and ability to learn to operate in a "new" geography.

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