Gym carnies: Hatsumomo

Gym carnies is an irregular series about the curious characters and intriguing individuals that people my local gym.

It's no surprise that when I go to the gym I usually use the treadmill. The gym is where I do my tempo runs and hill runs and serves as back up on rainy days. So being that I'm on the treadmill so often I've gotten to know other treadmillites (treadmillers? treadmillians?). FOM was the first treadmillite I became acquainted with--and not by choice. Since then I've recognized other treadmillites, some were brief spats of fitness, others have stuck around for the long run (pun intended).

One of the newer treadmillites I have come to call Hatsumomo. Now, for those of you who haven't been suckered by pop culture/your wife to read Memoirs of a Geisha, Hatsumomo is a geisha in said book who is beautiful and famous. She also happens to be one bitch-ass ho--but that is beside the point. The name stuck out in my mind because once I figured out how to pronounce it I couldn't stop saying it. I especially liked saying it like a dirty old Japanese business man who is looking for more than just company from a geisha (I get very specific in my humor). Then, I saw this woman at the gym who happened to look like Li Gong, who plays Hatsumomo in the movie. The name has stuck ever since.

There are two reasons why Hatsumomo has received designation as a gym carnie. First and oddest for a neighborhood with three sushi restaurants, four Thai restaurants, and umpteen Chinese take-out places (including a Tex-Mex Chinese place), Hatsumomo is the only Asian who regularly visits my gym. My 'hood is pretty diverse, but for some reason the Asians don't hit the biggest gym in the area, at least not in mornings. So Hatsumomo stands out in that respect.

The second reason for her carnihood, is that Hatsumomo is one of those rare treadmillites that has a death grip on the treadmill for her entire run. Not just for stretching, not just for slowing down--but for the entire four or five miles of her run she holds onto the machine for dear life. Sure, I have my weird habits while on the treadmill--I run with the TV off (which apparently is unusual in my gym)--but holding onto the machine? What is that?

Now, I should say that Hatsumomo runs with some Velcro contraption around one of her knees, so at first I thought she was running through an injury. So as a fellow runner I admired her for trying to get through her runs while injured and using the machine as a crutch. But it's been several months by now. The injury is either permanent or non-existent--and in either case it would be silly to continue running so.

What really boggles my mind is that Hatsumomo is a good runner. Usually the death grip is employed when the runner is a novice, but Hatsumomo cranks out miles at about a nine minute pace and usually runs four+ miles at a time. The woman can run--even if has has handicapped herself.

Also, she has a very particular way of bracing the machine. She'll have the TV on and with her right hand grip the screen, which is attached to top of the dash board. With her left hand she'll hold onto the side rails. It looks like her arms are stuck mid-hurdle-jump.

Of course, in my mind, I don't understand this. Mostly because I'm as much of a treadmill purest as possible. I don't do running starts (get the 'mill going before you step on it) or running pauses (leave the 'mill going while you take a breather). I only hold onto the rails if I'm stretching. I feel like holding onto the machine--especially in an asymmetrical way like Hatsumomo--just throws off your stride and makes you do a lot of unnecessary work that could be damaging. But, hey, that's just my two cents.


Jess said...

You don't get to hold onto anything outside, so I too think you shouldn't hold onto to anything while running on the treadmill.

Adam said...

Ha. I love the gym carnies series. This one was a doozy too. 9:00 pace w/out swinging her arms!? Crazy

Irish Cream said...

Awesome. I love this series too--it is truly amazing. And I must admit, at first I was wondering what was so odd about Hatsumomo, but WOW--I really don't get the holding on thing . . . I mean, I have worse balance than anyone on earth and I'm able to stay on the treadmill without holding on (most of the time anyway).