When I started my challenge there were 4 events that filled me with fear : horse riding ; gymnastics ; the high dive ; and the pole vault. I’m slowly working my way through them and, last Wednesday, it was time for the pole vault.
With some foreboding, I set off with Jon and Rick for GLL’s SutcliffePark and our latest coaching session with Richard Houlihan and Craig Lacy. We started with the usual thorough warm up session – notably featuring the ‘Caterpillar’ and the ‘Spider-Man’. Exhausting exercises where, you guessed it, the aim is to cover the ground in the manner of a caterpillar and Spider-Man respectively.
We then got our hands on the poles. The professionals use custom made 6 metre poles. We used 3-4 metre poles without too much flexibility so that we wouldn’t be ‘catapulted too far’ (Richard’s calming words). We learnt the basics of how to hold the pole and then practiced planting the pole in a hoop on the ground. Even with the shorter poles this was surprisingly difficult with most of us hitting the ground short of the hoop.
We them moved on to the long jump pit for our first ‘proper’ vaults into the sand. As I stood on the run up, I thought I was going to have another ‘forward roll’ moment and not be able to overcome my mental block. In the end, shame at not being able to do smoothing that Rick, Craig and Jon had already done won out. I ran up, planted the pole in the sand and held on for dear life. My technique was appalling and I didn’t go far or high. On the other hand, I was still breathing.
We had a few more goes and the others were increasingly impressive. Enough for Richard to say we were ready to move onto the actual pole vault set-up. The aim was to clear at least 1m 20 so as to land on the bed. Now, 1m 20 isn’t high by pole vaulting standards – but it does mean that you have to plant the pole properly and swing your legs through so that you land on your back on the bed.
Again the others all did this with some style. Again I stood on the run-up and wondered if I was going to bottle it. Eventually I set off and sort of scrambled onto the bed. I could tell Richard didn’t think it counted so I went back for another go and this time actually got some sort of lift and swing and made it properly on the bed. The key, as with so many of the sporting events we’ve done, is to overcome your fears and commit.
At this stage, it felt almost as good as having done my first jump on a horse. And, of course, I thought I’d cracked it and could now start to do some proper vaults. My third jump – with the pole plant being all wrong – reintroduced me to reality. At which point, Richard decided it was too windy to carry on so, thankfully, we retired with, in my case, a mix of elation and relief at having done it.
As ever, thank you to Richard, Craig and GLL for another great session. If you ever get the chance, give pole vaulting a go. Somewhat nerve wracking but great!
Please enjoy the video of my newly learn skills in action, and if you’re even slightly impressed by what you’ve seen, please do sponsor my efforts for the fantastic charities I’m doing this all for: NSPCC, Cancer Research UK, Oxfam, Right To Play and Scope.