Saved by Brittany

A very eventful weekend has just passed. Some say it would have been tough for those backing up in the Paris and Birmingham Diamond Leagues. Not me, those guys have it easy. The Kortjik-Brussels back up weekend is where its at as far as I am concerned. The weekend was chock-o-block with racing, catching up with some touring Aussies, getting in touch with the 14 year old girl inside me and again, learning from some good races. The plan was to race in Kortjik - a town in Belgium - and then catch up with some of the Aussie under 18 kids in Lille on the last day of the world youth Championships in France on Sunday. After a very windy 50.48 and 2nd place in Belgium, my good friend Michael Bultheel gave me the local low-down on a meet to be held on Sunday at the main stadium in Brussels, normally reserved for Diamond League, National Football games, National Championships and Britanny Spears concerts. Ironically, Brittany was the one who helped me learn from the weekend what I did, but we'll get to that.

Ben Offeriens and I decided that it was a perfect idea to have another race on the Sunday! He raced like crap on Saturday, and there was more wind on the back straight for me in the hurdles than fajita night at TGI Fridays, so I was keen for another hit out as well. We were flying at 6:30pm and our races were 2:30 and 4, so it was going to be tight, but fine. In short, we came, we raced, we left. But it was oh, so much more than that!!

Usually just at the right time, we athletes experience moments of clarity and perspective of the wonderful sport we do, filled with amazing opportunities on and off the field. The race yesterday was one of those moments for me. The exclamation point was Brittany Spears but I am getting ahead of myself again.

The Brussels meet was a reminder of what amazing athletes we are at the high level, and that not just anyone can take up this sport and succeed. It was a reminder of some of the do's and don'ts in track and field, and it was a reminder that this sport is really really fun :-) Allow me to set the scene...

The track was made pretty by balloons. And not just any balloons, floating ones. I recommend to anyone trying to make a big space with 21 people in it look good, to fill some balloons with helium and have those babies flying around to distract you from the lack of crowd in the stands. Tick. I knew it would be a long day when after 4 heats of the first event they were 20 minutes behind, and normally this would piss me off, but the 100m event was one of the most entertaining events of the past year for me. I simply could not get enough!

Those who have raced in any 'Pro' races in Australia will understand what I mean when I say that some athletes have a bark much, much bigger than their bite. Not being savvy to what the European equivalents of these all-show-and-no-go athletes looked like, I saw the guys warming up and was excited see what these chest pounding sprinters would clock up. There must have been 10 heats in total. They just kept coming!!

The first heat was won in 11.0, and I thought, "ok, cool. Slow heats first and then they build up..." Nope. Fastest heat first. Now don't get me wrong people, I'm not an elitist jerk who looks down on anyone who isn't winning Grand Prix's, but when you carry on like these guys did you expect some pure gold on that scoreboard. I absolutely love all participation in athletics but there is a certain dignity and demeanor that I think you should have when competing. There was obviously a lot of empty seats in the local class that this was taught in Track and Field 101.

It was clear that some of these guys were trying to make it look like they were sponsored - all the kit matching and in the current season. The winner of heft 3 was an example of this. Mate, don't salute the crowd and there is no way you got that bodysuit from running 11.7. Heat 7 winner actually ripped his shirt off after the race, strutting around and not shaking any hands. He ran 12.0. I'd like to put forward that there should be a cut off of 12 seconds for those to be allowed to wear a full bodysuit in the men's 100m. Actually, I'll probably eat my words on that in 20 years when all my spit shorts have fallen to pieces and I'll be the crusty old guy out on the street running in a bodysuit. Don't laugh, I'm probably also checking out your daughter's bum.

My highlight of the sprints was definitely 4th place is the second last heat. He was a proud 13 second full bodysuit wearer, and the fact that he was probably in his forties scored him 10 points in my book. I took back 3 of those points, however; 1 for each size he should go up in his bodysuit, and an extra 5 point penalty for the completely blatant jock strap he was wearing leaving nothing to the imagination whatsoever when he faced the other way. Simply stunning.

What had me off my seat, however, was the 2nd heat of the women's 400m. We were playing the harmless game of guessing who would win each of the races going purely on pre-race information. I never for a moment had the slightly larger lady in lane 3 who was probably in her latter end of the 30s or early 40s as a chance. She belted out of the blocks, not like someone who used to run, but of someone who is just driven to give their all, and caught her outside lane before the end of the first bend. I thought she would die a tragic death going into the 3rd hundred, but she held strong and was hurting like hell but pulled that finish line right in. Just over 60 seconds. An ovation she got, although a standing one she deserved.

So back to my race and there was probably someone in the grandstands saying 'Hey look at that dick head wearing split shorts and bright red sunglasses. Who the hell does he thing he is??" Who indeed. I ran a respectable but very tired 50.40. I hoped to make more of the conditions and great track but was fairly passive in the race and probably got what I deserved. 50 point low again. I would love to see the stats on the 400 hurdlers in history who have run between 50.0 and 50.5 more times than me. I'm tipping there would be none.

We were in a rush to the airport so I got no time for a proper warm down and smelt worse than 'old mate' in 29E, all things which make me cranky. I found myself unsatisfied with my performance before hearing the following words out of the radio sung by none other than miss Brittany Spears...

"That I ever thought that I could be, baby
I used to go with the flow
Didn’t really care ‘bout me
You might think that I can’t take it, but you’re wrong
‘Cause now I’m…

Stronger than yesterday
Now it’s nothing but my way
My lonliness ain’t killing me no more
I'm stronger"

She made me appreciate a good weekend of racing, which turned my mood around and also helped my appreciation for the spectacle of athletics that was before me than day. And finally I made one big resolution that I'm too close to the end of my career and have been doing this for way too long to keep giving myself a hard time when I don't run as fast as I want to. So, BJ... Clap. Clap. Clap.


  1. BJ - thanks for the laughs! Love your style - on the track as well as literary. Keep up the good work and enjoy life.


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