WIESBADEN, Germany – When Capt. Justin Brooks first got sick in June 2019, his hand swelled up so big his fellow Soldiers said it looked like a Mickey Mouse glove.
“Then my hips started hurting, then my ankles started hurting, then my knees started hurting – I could barely walk,” he said. “I didn’t want to get out of bed.”
He ended up in the emergency room twice, where they asked about a possible accident and checked for spider bites and other diseases.
Four months later, he got in to see a rheumatologist and was diagnosed with undifferentiated seronegative spondyloarthropathy, a type of rheumatoid arthritis.
After six months on medication, he was able to get his condition under control; however, running and working out was still painful and challenging.
“It took a while to get back in the gym to lift,” he said. “Physical activity was just absolutely tough; it was really tough.”
Meanwhile, his wife, Caitlin, was in the Clay Cycling Club and had signed up for the Installation Management Command Directorate-Europe 1,000 Kilometer Biking Club, a challenge where participants ride on any type of bicycle, log their miles and receive a jersey at the end.
The challenge has been more popular than expected. More than 323 people have completed their 1,000 kilometers across the region, according to Aaron Jones, Outdoor Recreation specialist with Community Recreation, G-9, IMCOM-Europe.
“We initially purchased 50 jerseys for the region,” Jones said. “So we have had way more success than we really dreamed of.”
So far, 104 people have signed up in Wiesbaden, 71 of whom have completed, said Joe Harris, director of the Outdoor Recreation and Education Program at U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden. Participants are continuing to log their kilometers and are up to a combined total of 115,240 so far in Wiesbaden as of press time.
The first person from USAG Wiesbaden to complete the 1,000 Km Club challenge was Fred Proctor, who currently has logged more than 12,300 kms ridden to date.
“The great thing about bicycling is it can be done as a group or individually,” Harris said. “So with COVID, people are still able to go out hiking and biking.”
He said that while some people tracked a small number of long rides, others used the challenge to track their trips to the grocery store, bakery and work—places they would have normally driven to.
“Biking has opened up travel to people who probably wouldn’t have gone those routes or those ways,” Harris said. “It’s slower, but they get to see more of the countryside. It’s positively changing some people’s habits and how they do things.”
Brooks bought a road bike in May of this year and joined his wife in the challenge toward the end of that month, completing it by the beginning of November.
“From the moment I got out there on the bike, I’ve been hooked,” he said. “Doing the challenge got me back into aerobic physical activity.”
They biked to Aschaffenburg, Ruedesheim, the Frankfurt airport and Heidelberg, among other places.
“The more I move, the better I feel,” Brooks said.
For more information on the 1,000 Kilometer Biking Club, go to https://wiesbaden.armymwr.com/happenings/1000-kilometer-biking-club