My eight foot spear

I belong to a persecuted minority. Wherever I go I am given looks of contempt, laughs of condescending disbelief and most often a gaze that belies a shocked terror. And it’s all because I walk in public with an 8’ spear. I’m one of few people who enjoy the athletic pursuit of throwing javelin for means of recreation and exercise.

I started throwing in high school when I was helping my Dad clean out my Grandmother’s loft. I moved away a dusty old bin and there it was: a relic from days past. From the first glance I had of that gleaming metallic wonder I knew I had to throw it soaring through the air.

I have a genetic disposition for hurling things. My father was a competitive javelin thrower in high school and most people are aware of my brother’s well documented and meteoric rise to fame as a regional ball throwing champion back in grade six. It was assumed that I had a golden arm.

Perhaps I didn’t have the prodigious might of my family, but I knew I liked it, and thus began years of casual insults.

I was honked at, yelled at, and more often than not beset by curious observers who were in disbelief at my chosen hobby. Along with them came the parade of people who scoffed at the seemingly puny distance I was able to get with a good toss and then bragged that they could do better.

There’s an incredible tendency to hit yourself in the back of the head and fall over the first time you try throwing, and I made no attempt to teach these people otherwise.

What the typical person would realize after trying and (typically) failing was that the entire motion was not at all what they expected.

You throw not with your arm, but your rotator cuff, and the grip is not firm, but a loose cross-palm. Your balance comes from your toes, and to make the spear fall tip-first requires a wrist flick that takes lots of practice.

It’s the technical and counter-intuitive aspects of the sport that keep me so intrigued, but there’s also a visceral level to it. Letting out a feral roar as you whip your arm forward gives a satisfaction that can be felt at the most primal level; it sends a cathartic jolt to your deepest guts.

Not to mention the smile that comes to my face when I think of the echoes of raging Achilles, cunning Odysseus, and courageous Leonidas that this simple implement carries with it. The closest I can get to fighting in the Trojan War is running around with a pointed stick in a park, and that’s just fine with me.

It’s an activity that combines aspects of athletics, history, geometry, precision, strength and technique into a single rhythmic movement. To see it done right is to see the confluence of so many forces at work.

If you’re intrigued by the idea, or even curious, look for me around. I’ll be the guy who’s trotting through the laughs of the passerby and imagining some ancient legend. Who knows, if you ask politely, maybe I’ll even teach you to throw.

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