Since I started pole vaulting about four years ago, I have met and become friends with the most amazing people.
Just the other day, I was chatting with Simon Arkell, a two-time Olympian from Australia who I met and had breakfast with in Reno at the National Pole Vault Summit a few years ago. Simon was the world record holder for left-handed vaulters for a long time. A great guy.
Of course, there’s a guy named Bubba Sparks who got me started on this amazing journey to begin with.
Bubba was a three-time collegiate champion and a world champion 40 years later or something in Masters pole vault.
I wrote yesterday about the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone and facing your fears.
People like Simon and Bubba mastered that and many other skills a long time ago.
The example of stepping out of one’s comfort zone I talked about was my first Journalism 101 course and the challenges that represented. The professor gave us an assignment to go out across campus and interview people on the first day of class, and I had never done anything like that before in my life. But I had a decision to make.
Do you want to become a journalist or not?
OK, then, get your ass up and go out there and interview some people.
Just go do it.
Same thing happened when I went to Spain for the first time to walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. Go to Spain by myself — my first time to travel overseas — and walk from one side of the country to the other?
Do you want to do it or not?
Then go do it.
It happened again when I decided to get off the couch and try pole vaulting.
I’ve told the story before. It was close to my 60th birthday, and I was not in good shape, physically or mentally. It was a rough time. But I wound up one Sunday afternoon, standing on a runway at a high school track and field facility, pole vault pole in hand for the first time ever, with renowned coach Brian Elmore telling me to go ahead and jump.
I had no idea what was going to happen.
I had watched a bunch of high school kids practicing for a couple hours, but what the hell is going to happen when I try and run a few steps, holding on to this long fiberglass pole, and jump over onto this big ‘ol landing pit?
I could either make a fool of myself or get seriously hurt — or both!
OK, well, do you want to do this or not?
Then do it.
So I did.
And it was pretty ugly.
I kind of stubbed my left toe in the metal box where you plant the pole to start the jump, and then sort of flopped across onto the right side of the big mat.
But I survived.
I did it, and then I did it again.
Last year, I was ranked no. 13 in the country for my age group (60-64) in USATF Masters pole vault.
This year, I just may make the Top 10.
I’ve won a few medals. Jumped in Reno a couple of times. Competed at the Texas Senior Games, Kansas Senior Games, Oklahoma Senior Games, and National Senior Games.
I wrote a book about all this, “Finally Fit: It’s Never Too Late to Achieve a Dream.”
People from all over the country and even the world have told me the book and what I’ve done is inspiring. How cool is that?
So once again, I’ll say it:
Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone.
Try something that scares you. It feels pretty good.
Fear is not a bad thing. It means you’re alive … and, really, it’s all in your head.
Courage is not the absence of fear.
Courage is being afraid, and going ahead and doing whatever it is anyway.
Don’t let fear hold you back.
Go do it.
Masters vaulter and pit crew at the Expo Explosion in Belton, Texas, the second-largest indoor pole vault meet in the U.S.