Papa’s got a brand new bag

Earlier today I sent out regrets to new Bowling Green head coach Lou Snelling regarding participation in the upcoming “first annual” Falcon 5-miler. Coach Snelling is working hard to mend relations with alumni like myself who were bitter and angry after the men’s program was eliminated eleven years ago, and the race looks like it will be a step in the right direction. He’s put in a couple of nice cross-promotions, having the race finish on the university track and right before the spring football game.

I told Coach Snelling that I’ll happily volunteer my time should my schedule allow me, but I’m not going to run. He presumed I’m injured, but that’s not it. After 29 years and dozens and dozens of thousands of miles, I’m finally bored with distance running. I haven’t been able to get myself running with any consistency since cross country season ended.

I’ve decided that instead, I’m going to take up pole vaulting.

I have a college buddy who is a pretty good high school coach and who loves the vault. He holds an open pole vault practice two nights a week and has agreed to teach me. My first competition will be a street vault at the Pemberville Free Fair in August.

Why pole vault? It’s new. It’s different. It looks fun (and everyone who does it tells me it is fun). It will require me to work on things I have ignored for far too long — strength (particularly in the midsection), balance, flexibility, speed.

And it scares me just a little bit. This is no small matter. A healthy dose of fear is motivating. We all have a friend or co-worker who signed up for their first marathon or half-marathon or triathlon and expressed some fear about it, and that fear kept them honest about their training. I don’t fear any kind of race anymore, and that’s a big problem. But my fear of the pole-vaulting unknown has me doing all-over body strength work, and for the first time in my life I’m counting calories.

I have no illusions that I’ll be any good. I’m short, slow, old, fat (by distance-runner standards at least), weak, uncoordinated, and inexperienced. That’s not the point. The point is to challenge myself, get fit(ter than I am now) and have fun.

The other plus? I’ll probably learn enough to be able to watch the pole vault with a more critical eye. So watching track meets will be even more fun than it already is. I didn’t think that was possible…

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One Response to Papa’s got a brand new bag

  1. Christin says:

    :) I am glad I’m not the only weirdo/crazy who has tried to take up pv at a later age. Arguable I pole vaulted a bit in high school once my legs were too messed up to handle 400 and 800s and my coaches suggested trying a jumping event since I could probably get down a runway. Then decided to take it up again six years later (none of the muscle memory remained!) when i got recruited to coach at a school which basically needed someone with a pulse to help supervise practices.
    Best advice I can give: be patient and keep a sense of humor. Accepting that you don’t think you’ll be good and accepting that you might get beaten by 12-year-olds are very different – prepare yourself for the latter, know that there are some really amazing 12-year-olds ;)
    Also, short runs (3-steps, etc) are your friend while getting comfortable with the plant and adjusting your stride from distance running.
    Good luck and happy vaulting :D