To say this last week has been a roller coaster would be a massive understatement.
On Wednesday I became one of 8,000 people to carry the London 2012 Olympic Torch on its 70 day journey. And what an experience that was.
And it was nuts. Totally bonkers. Wow. What an experience.
At the briefing we sat round in circle and had to tell everyone our names and the reasons we were nominated. I found it very humbling being sat there amongst such amazing people – charity fundraisers, lifelong volunteers, sports people. After that we had opportunity to practice the “kiss” moment – the point where the flame is transferred from one torch to the next. We were encouraged to come up with a suitable pose or action to do for the cameras, but as always when I’m put on the spot like that I could think of nothing other than stand and wave. Ah well, waving would do!
The torchbearers on my bus started the relay at Bracebridge Heath and then into Lincoln for the route from South Park to Tritton Road. I was the penultimate torchbearer in the group, doing the leg from Dixon Street onto Tritton Road and down about halfway. I took the flame from Henry (120) and gave it to Aiden (122). On the way out of the city centre to Bracebridge Heath we were surprised at the number of people who were stood at the side of the road waiting for the relay to come through. We went out of through Bracebridge Heath to turn round and wait for the rest of the convoy which was on its way from Sleaford.
The torchbearer bus travels at the front of the convoy, well, behind some police motorcyclists and a car anyway. We travelled about 6 minutes ahead of the flame to give each torchbearer a chance to get themselves off the bus and have a few snaps taken before they had to start running. At the briefing we were warned that when we got off the bus people would want to touch the torch and have their photos taken with it, but we were instructed never to let go of it. Ok, I could remember that. But then when the first person got off the bus and was immediately surrounded by people I started to get rather anxious. If you were under 18 you had a chaperone to be with you at that point, but us adults were just left standing there. All I could think in my 31-going-on-12-year-old-mind was “I hope my mum is in the right place”!! As the minutes went by and more and more torchbearers left the bus, I got more and more worried about all those things I have mentioned before – falling over, dropping the torch, the flame going out, setting fire to the city of Lincoln… that sort of thing. I knew I was being watched through the power of find friends on my iPhone so my other half knew exactly when I was going to arrive at pole number 121, and I knew my mum and dad and a few friends were there too. I was also receiving LOADS of messages on twitter wishing me luck, I love social media!
The bus stopped, the doors opened and I stepped out. Mum was there, phew. And there were lots of other familiar faces too. I had some photos taken and then a little kid came up to me and asked if they could have their picture taken with me. Ok, I can do that. Then another. And another. This was good, I can smile, I was happy to be in their pictures, knowing it wasn’t me they were interested in at all, it was the torch. A few asked why it wasn’t lit yet, so I explained that I was waiting for the flame itself to arrive. Others asked why I didn’t run there. I don’t think the way the relay works has been communicated that well. Never mind. After a minute I looked up away from all the cameras and realised I was the hole in a doughnut of people – kids and parents and others surrounding me. A little girl in a wheelchair was pushed through the crowd, so I knelt down for that one. This was all very bizarre. They were all very nice, but again I knew this wasn’t me, it was the big gold thing I was holding onto (tightly).
A man on a bicycle, one of the policemen looking after the relay, came over and asked if I was ok. He said the relay was just a minute away – and I could see it. The big Coca Cola Beat Bus came by and I heard them shout my name over the tannoy – I was one of their Future Flames and they were shouting about it! A couple of Coke reps came over and gave me a hug, telling me they were proud and to enjoy myself. Before I knew it I was stood in the middle of the street, Henry had completed his leg, and our torches kissed. The flame was mine. This was my moment to shine.
I ran. Well, jogged. My hand waved at the crowd vigorously – they were cheering really loudly and there were 100s of people. As I turned the corner onto Tritton Road I could see my Future Flames banner really clearly. Fantastic. Actually it’s amazing how your ears can pick out voices. The whole crowd seemed to be cheering for me but I was able to hear and find a number of friends and colleagues whose voices I recognised instantly. Yes Julie and Lucy, those waves were for you, thanks for coming! And it was awesome to see my banner being waved really high – a banner with my name on – amazing! Thanks to everyone who came – some travelled a very long way. And I knew there were loads of friends watching it on the BBC torchcam too, which was just brilliant. It was a crazy experience and I’m so pleased you were a part of it, it would have been a bit lonely out there on my own.
I think I ran quite fast considering. I know I did. It took just under three minutes to do my 350 metres. A couple of times along the route I shoved the torch high up into the air like it was some sort of trophy. It was too heavy to hold it up there the whole way and I was determined that I wouldn’t look pained in any of the photographs (unfortunately that wish was not granted – some strange facial expressions going on, sorry about that!). One very timely cameraman got a shot of it up in the air and kindly sent me a copy to use – thanks The Lincolnite. I have been given so many photographs, it’s really nice having them to add to my album – and I even have a video too!
At the end of my leg I handed the flame over to Aiden and stepped to one side to wait for my bus – the torchbearers who had already run get on the bus at the back of the convoy. That was it. I was as high as a kite. And also very warm. It was a muggy day and I was wearing a shell suit.
Once back at Sincil Bank our guides decommissioned the torches (took the gas cannister out) and gave them to us. We had the same torch that we ran with which was a really nice touch – this was actually mine, the one I had used. I am so grateful to Coca Cola for giving me my torch, a lovely gesture that means a lot.
From there I walked into the city centre to meet my husband; still wearing that white suit and carrying my torch in its sock I was a bit obvious. Lots of people stopped to talk to me. People pipped their horns. If I had a penny for each person that asked for a light… It’s not me, I kept thinking, it’s the torch. Don’t let go. There was a party going on at the Uni which we went to briefly, but I just couldn’t go anywhere. I had my photo taken with a band who were performing at the event, a whole carnival type drum troop, and lots and lots of children. Which was nice. But also just a teeny bit scary. I don’t think I’d make a very good celebrity!
I was nominated to carry the Olympic Flame through the Coca Cola Future Flames scheme. My mum felt I had a good attitude towards life, not letting things like my eye problems get in the way of living and encouraging others to make the most of what they have. I hope I have done you proud mum – and I will continue to do my best to make the most of the opportunities I am given every single day of my life. And that includes right now, when my body and mind are trying to tell me to not bother with anything at all. I will try.
So thank you mum for the nomination. Thank you Coca Cola for choosing me as one of your Future Flames. Thank you LOGOC for a fabulous day. And thank you to everyone who came or watched online.
An adventure I’ll never forget. Bonkers.