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The Battalion

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The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Pole Guy

 
 

Six days a week, drivers sometimes see 72-year-old Bart Braden jogging alongside Wellborn Road, hanging from a pole sideways or running around with his arms spread out as if he were an airplane.
Sophomore engineering major Michael Riedel said he thought Braden was strange the first time he saw him. But after talking to him, Riedel said he thinks Braden is a nice guy.
“The airplane thing – that gets to people,” Riedel said. “When you first see it you’re just like, ‘Wow is he really doing that?’ Then you get used to it.”
For the past 44 years, Braden said he has been running for “28 days a month, every month except February” and has only had three injuries over 80,000 miles of running.
Braden, an Air Force veteran who served in three wars, is a part-time student at Texas A&M and has been taking the same kinesiology class, aerobic running, for 30 years.
“I didn’t miss a single class for 22 years,” he said. “I missed one for jury duty but made up for it by running three classes in a row.”
The apartment, where Braden lives alone, is filled with cans of Kale greens, a vegetable which he said helps him maintain an eyesight that is good enough to allow him to pass a driving test at the age of 72.
There is a table filled entirely with trophies (“I had about 400 but gave some of them away to my 95-year-old mother,” he said), and a part of the living room wall has dozens of the 900 paper racing number tags that he wears during races.
On each tag and underneath each trophy he writes his weight, finish time, the temperature and how many hours of sleep he got the night before the race.
“One time I slept 13 hours before my race and had my best time,” he said. “The day before the race, I’ll get up extra early in the morning. That way, I’ll be tired and go to bed early.”
He’s been to races where some of the prizes given away were 30 bales of hay, 20 pounds of polish sausage, a heifer calf, veterinarian services, newspaper subscriptions, watermelons and cans of motor oil.
He also went running on a Greenland ice cap while he was stationed there in the military.
“I froze my butt off,” he said.
Braden still runs when the weather is cold or rainy, but in extreme weather, he said, he likes to run up and down the 13 flights of stairs in the Oceanography and Meteorology Building.
Braden runs in classes, in his free time and also in races. His most memorable race is the Kyle Field Ramp Romp, in which participants run up and down the circular ramps around Kyle Field.
“I’m the only one that’s been there every year,” he said.
Riedel said he once went up to Braden to get his picture taken with him, and Braden ended up trying to show him how to hang sideways from a pole.
“He explained it to me and had me try to do it,” said Riedel, who could only attempt to hold his body up like Braden, despite the fact that he works out often.
Braden said that some of the younger people he meets aren’t as physically fit as he is and probably have a different outlook on life, but he hopes to motivate students to have better health with his presence in kinesiology classes.
“I think it really inspires them not to miss class,” he said. Diana Mendoza, a sophomore psychology major, said she had one encounter with Braden where he ran up to her car when she was with a friend and asked them if they had any Keystone.
Braden said he often asks people if they have any beer, because he only has three weaknesses: pizza, beer and Blue Bell ice cream.
Mendoza said she thinks Braden does what he does because of some of the experiences he’s had in his life.
“I’m pretty sure that since he’s seen so many things that … he probably has a really positive outlook on life,” Mendoza said. “For him to be out there acting like that … he’s really comical. He knows people laugh at him and he does it every day.”
Braden said he got the idea to put his arms out like an airplane and run when he was watching the 2004 Olympics and a runner was run off of the race track during a race by a priest. The runner had been in second place, but after the distraction he was so far behind that there was no point in running, so he just put his arms out by his side and ran.
Mendoza said that whenever she sees Braden, he brightens up her day.
“I’m pretty sure he knows that he’s got fans out there,” she said. “I think he knows that he’s pretty much a part of Aggieland now. Anytime I see him, I can’t stop smiling. It’s such a sight to see; I’ve never seen anything like it.”

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