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The Things They Carry.




I recently reread Tim O'Brien's landmark book on Vietnam (the title above), describing the items soldiers lugged around each day in Southeast Asia - food, canteens, flak jackets, ammunition, weapons, etc. and even lucky charms.


It made me think about what track and field athletes carry (carried) in their bags/backpacks in preparing for a meet. Oftentimes it is obvious items - like extra spikes, a spike-wrench, tape measure, ibuprofen, a roll of white athletic tape, bottle of water, snacks, maybe a clean t-shirt for after competition.


Yet quite often you would be surprised to discover what might be inside - a green Hulk doll, hotdog wrapped in aluminum foil, bottle of Imodium-D, Tums, reading material for down times, even a home-made slingshot.


Yes, a Hulk doll.


Myself, I always carried a can of Right Guard deodorant, band-aids to cover blisters, heel cups and foam pads (I ran the steeple), an old toothbrush, extra socks, sunscreen, and a baseball hat.


Here are unique items which have been found in bags.


Sprinters - a 6' sewing tape measure, a small tub of Cramergesic, and compression wraps.


High Jumpers - a magic marker, tongue depressors or whiffle golf ball and 4" twenty-penny nail.


Horizontal Jumpers - Visine, contact case, and a comb.


Pole Vaulters - lighter fluid, GOJO soap, Dawn dish soap, MEK, small can of paint remover, rolls of two-sided tape, gymnastic chalk, Cramer Tuf-Skin, extra butt-plugs, and a roll of pre-wrap as an emergency windsock.


Throwers - gymnastic chalk, ammonia capsules, wrist wraps, washers to add ounces to an indoor Weight (not legal but it works!), extra hypodermic needles (just kidding), fingerless glove, pliers and extra wires for a hammer, and an Allen wrench.


Are you kidding?


For those of you less versed in the event categories sprinters measure foot pedal placement with the cloth tape. And back in the 70's HJers used tongue depressors or whiffle balls to mark their takeoff point in the grass, LJ/TJ athletes dealing with sand in their eyes and hair - hence the Visine and comb.


Pole vaulters, what can I say? It wouldn't surprise me to find a kitchen sink in their bags, this event easily rivalling the throwers. Oh, and the slingshot...well the Y-shaped stick could be taped to the vaulting pole and used to put the crossbar up.


The lighter fluid, gymnastic chalk, and Tuf-Skin are used to improve grip on the pole; the GOJO, Dawn, and paint remover (even gasoline in a pinch) to clean their hands after.


You can bet they didn't carry a cigarette lighter!


Throwers used smelling salts to light up their bodies (as if they needed it) before throws, inhaling the ammonia like it was cocaine, the pliers and Allen wrench to repair broken implements.


The Hulk doll was carried around by an All-American Iowa State shot putter in the 80's who I won't name - he would crush me like a bug if I spilled the beans.


And the old toothbrush - I always cleaned my Adidas Tokyo 64's after a race to make sure they looked good for the next competition. Certainly you didn't think I brushed my teeth with it...did you?



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