August is prime time for holidays in Europe, and Katie McGregor has joined in the fun overseas.
Fun, in her case, means competing against the best runners in the world.
Today, a year after the Beijing Olympics, with images of Usain Bolt still plastered on global imaginations, the World Track and Field Championships begin a weeklong run in Berlin.
McGregor, a Team USA Minnesota standout, has been in Europe for a couple of weeks getting ready. The 31-year-old is one of America's best distance runners, but she can train anonymously around the Twin Cities. In Europe, where track meets are as popular as American baseball games, all the athletes have a huge following.
"The stadiums are packed, and everyone knows the details of every event," McGregor wrote in an e-mail. "At the meet hotels, people stand outside waiting to get autographs the entire weekend."
McGregor's preparations for today's race included 5,000-meter events at the Aviva Grand Prix London on July 25 and at the DN Galan meet in Stockholm on July 31.
"In Europe, the quality of competition is better, and the atmosphere of a full stadium is pretty inspiring," she wrote. "There are also a ton of meets, big and small, so it is easier to get in many races in a shorter amount of time."
McGregor -- a three-time NCAA champion and nine-time All-America while running for the University of Michigan from 1995-99 -- has been in two previous World Championships, held every two years, at 10,000 meters. She finished 14th in Helsinki in 2005 (with a personal best 31 minutes, 21.20 seconds) and was 13th in Osaka two years ago. Her Olympic aspirations have twice been heartbreaking, after finishing fourth -- one spot from making the team -- at the U.S. Trials in both 2004 and 2008.
The European races have been a chance to see the stellar competition, including Ethiopian superstar Tirunesh Dibaba, who won both the 5,000 and 10,000 in Beijing but pulled out of the 10,000 at the world meet because of injury. Dibaba, the world record holder, dominated the 5,000 at the Aviva Grand Prix in London while McGregor was far back.
"This has been a bad year for me so far," she wrote. "I am fit and have put a lot of work in, but sometimes things click and other times they don't. My races have been poor previous to World Championships, but I feel confident in my 10K training, and I know that I have a good race in me.
"I would like to finish in the top 15 for sure. Top 10 would be a great day for me."
Bolt is getting the lion's share of the attention in Berlin, which is playing host to the first international track and field event since the infamous 1936 Olympics, where American Jesse Owens won four gold medals and dictator Adolf Hitler famously stalked away from the Olympiastadion. McGregor will have a close look at Bolt, because the 100 preliminaries are right before her race tonight.
McGregor wrote that accommodations and security for the athletes were outstanding and that volunteers and fans were wonderful. Asked about unique sights and sounds, she wrote: "Well, there is open container policy here, so people can walk around and ride public transportation with a bottle of beer in their hands.
"Another thing that is really awesome is getting to meet and talk to other athletes from the U.S. that I normally don't get to talk to at competitions. Since we are here for a long period of time, we get to know each other well and become a family. I definitely feel like we have a strong team that really believes we can work together to represent the USA well and make everyone back home proud."