ATHLETES are said to have a short shelf life, but a High Wycombe pole vaulter has just climbed to new heights a full 17 years after setting his previous best.
Ian Parkinson was competing for Wycombe Phoenix Harriers in the Southern League in St Albans on Saturday when he set a new lifetime best at the grand age of 35.
He soared to 4.31m, beating by a single centimetre the 4.30m he cleared as an 18-year-old.
It was just reward for years of rededication and it was more than enough to win the competition.
He said: “You know how it is, you finish university and start working. You don’t train as much and your focus goes a bit.
“I never stopped vaulting, but I got to about 30 and thought if I’m not careful I’m going to be too old to do this and I didn’t think I’d achieved my potential.
“There was a realisation that time was running out.
“So I started to focus on it a bit more, training harder and smarter and being a lot more determined to get down the gym instead of watching television.
“I was never going to be an international pole vaulter – I didn’t have the raw speed in the run up – but in the last few years I’ve started to get back to where I was.”
Parkinson’s record jump came after his fifth place finish in the South of England Championships the previous weekend, but he’s not finished yet.
He said: “I’d like to get another ten or 20cm. The club record is 4.40m and I’d like to get that.
“I used to hold it and I want it back.”
Making Parkinson’s day extra special, wife Caroline won the women’s pole vault too.
He said: “We met through pole vaulting and when we got married my father in law said in his speech that he reckoned we must hold the world record for a husband and wife – but I think that would be pretty hard to prove.”
Parkinson wasn’t the only one setting lifetime bests at St Albans.
Jordan Lane won the 400m in 49.6 seconds and Natasha Taylor finished the 1,500m in 4:53 for second place.
Meanwhile, Bradley Lawrence took a full seven seconds off his best time in the 400m hurdles as he broke the tape in 59.6 seconds while Richard Elverly improved his best in the shot putt, javelin and discus.
Elsewhere, James Roberts claimed a gun to tape win in the 800m, Sophie Matthews and Rochelle Jack recorded A and B string wins in the 100m and Lucy Rogers won the 3,000m after a long absence.
Lisa Fitzpatrick (100m hurdles), Josh Parry (100m and 200m), Rob Bushrod (B string high jump and pole vault and the women’s 4x100m relay squad were also triumphant as Phoenix finished the day second overall.