One afternoon during her first week at Harvard Johanna Forman invited a couple of guys from her dorm to join her on a short run. Expecting a leisurely jog along the banks of the Charles, they accepted. Somewhere between Harvard Yard and MIT they realized that when Forman said "run" she meant exactly that. Unfortunately the same couldn't be said for her idea of "short".
A good deal later Forman returned home with her two friends puffing breathlessly behind in pursuit. They were both humiliated by their performance but their embarrassment was short-lived. After a good laugh their proctor let them in on a well-kept secret,--they had just finished working out with one of the country's top female half-milers.
Unfortunately for coach Pappy Hunt and the women's cross country team Foram didn't get much of a chance to show her heels in Ivy League competition that first Fall. Halfway through the season she developed a severe case of achilles tendonitis.
When it rains, it pours, and by mid-December she was also plagued by stress fractures in her left tibia. These two injuries were just the beginning of a rash of nagging injuries which always recurred just as she was ready to resume serious training.
"I got pretty fed up with not being able to maintain a normal workout schedule," Forman recalls. "It wasn't as if I could just work around my injury because everytime I tried something else went wrong."
An arch problem which made even walking difficult forced her to begin regular visits to a local chiropractor last spring. Forman admits to skepticism at first but now credits the doctor with her recent comeback.
"My chiropractor, Dr. Curtis Langer, deals with structural alignment, which of course affects muscle balance," Forman says. "After just two weeks he had me back on light workouts and now for the first time in almost three years I feel confident that my body can withstand the pressure of constant rigorous workouts."
Now in her junior year, the sopt-spoken Falmouth native takes no unnecessary risks with her natural gifts. Her practice sessions, like those of several other teammates, are carefully tailored by assistant coach John Babbington to avoid the unnatural stress that so often causes problems in runners.
With her medical problems under control Forman began this fall with an eye on returning to her lost excellence. Despite rocky times since starting college, Forman has a wealth of past experience to draw on.
In addition to her blistering performances in Massachusetts high school meets. Forman made regular appearances on the tough indoor circuit as early as 1975, but points out that she took her lumps before burning up the competition. "I remember my first big indoor meet at Madison Square Garden," Forman said, "I guess they could tell I was pretty green; someone gave me the elbow five seconds into the race."
Forman didn't take long to learn the ropes, and that was the last time anyone pushed her around on a track. The year after the elbowing incident she won the National Senior Women's 880 and qualified for her first of four international teams.
The trip included a stop in Leningrad, one place Forman has no desire to see again. While there she contracted a serious intestinal bug which took six months to work itself out of her system. Unfortunately, that was an Olympic year, and she couldn't recover in time to prepare for the Olympic trials properly.
"On my next trip to the USSR my diet consisted of cookies and coke, nice safe pre-packaged foods," Forman says.
Once she fully recovered from her illness, Forman returned to the Falmouth High squads where she continued her assault on the school record book. Despite gearing her training for the middle distances, she finished second in the state cross-country finals for the third year in a row.
This fall she has proved her versatility once again while sharing the limelight with Crimson teammate Darlene Beckford. The two of them give the Harriers an awesome one-two punch. They are the key to the team's hopes for a strong showing in this Friday's Ivy League Championships in Philadelphia.
Looking beyond this week, Forman is aiming for a successful year in open competitions, knowing that she needs only to stay well and train properly to work her 800 meters time down to 2:02.9, which would qualify her for the Olympic trials.