I left for Brussels, Belgium July 1st full of anticipation and unsure of what to expect. This is my first time traveling to Europe for competition and I’m excited for the opportunity to enter some fast races and learn about the whole process! The first hurdle to racing overseas was getting through the eight-hour flight from Atlanta, and minimizing jet lag. I knew it would be challenging but important to stay awake the first day to adjust to the new time zone. Thankfully, some friends had given me a few pointers that made escaping the jet lag much easier: 1) taking melatonin was extremely helpful for me when I felt wide awake but I needed to sleep on the flight when it was nighttime in Belgium. 2) Wearing compression socks helped to minimize the “dead legs” feeling that you get from sitting for so long, as well as getting up every couple of hours to walk around and stretch a bit. 3) Drinking tons of water!!
I was a little bleary-eyed once I arrived, and preconceived notions of glamour I had coming into that first day quickly faded as I sluggishly attempted to get my suitcase on and off the lightning speed trains where the name of every destination sounded the same to my untrained ear. I was also with a group of 15 other athletes, and we all had huge rolling bags. There was no way to escape the tourist label! I tried later that night when I refused to admit that I could not read the Flemmish menu and ordered something “met ham” which seemed safe enough because it had ham. It ended up being a cheese curd soup…
Until the end of July I am traveling with an Athletes in Action group. There are 15 of us from different colleges around the United States including University of Kentucky, Ole Miss, Seattle Pacific, and University of Arizona. It is fun to be with such a diverse group competing in the discus, shot, high jump, and running events! Athletes in Action is a Christian ministry, and a great way for me to combine my passion for running and my relationship with Jesus. For me, every day of running is a gift from my Creator to be enjoyed, and I am extremely grateful for the freedom that comes from an identity in Christ. We are traveling to the Belgium series of meets called the Flanders Cup and participating in a few opportunities to serve the community along the way since we are stationed in Leuven for the month.
The sky was began to grow dark and soon the stadium lights were shining brightly. It had been a warm day, so the evening felt perfect for a 1500m race. The track was lined the whole way around with people either hanging over the sides or lounging with picnics on the grass. There was an excitement in the atmosphere, as just moments before the crowd had witnessed Rodisha run a world-ranked time of 1:41.52 in the 800m! The women in my race went out hard, and as I once again fell into the rhythm of racing, I was vaguely aware of Polka music playing. That has never happened to me in the states! The race was won in a blazing 4:01, an amazing experience. After the competition it was fun to run my cool down with a few other Americans whom I really admire from the race—Erin Donohue (2nd) and Amy Mortimer (8th).
Next for me is a 3000m race outside of Rome in Velletri which will probably be the last race of my season. As I wrap up my season, I am grateful for the opportunity to enjoy competition against some of the other elite runners from around the world and excited for my future as a Brooks athlete!!
Run Happy- Katie Follett