Saturday, 26 May 2012

Three days until the proudest moment of my life becomes a reality.

In 3 days, I will be carrying the London 2012 Olympic Flame through Chester. Seems pretty unreal doesn't it? It feels like it. At approximately, all being well, 6.08pm- the flame from the previous torch-bearer will approach me. I envisage that a sense of excitement with a subtle hint of anxiety will rush over me- followed by an absolute sense of elation, and perhaps disappointment when such a once in a lifetime opportunity comes to a finish. If you don't already know, I've been given a brilliant section to run, probably the nicest stretch- I walked it on Thursday with two fellow Chester torchbearers, Huw Barrett and Emma Jones. The flame is passed to me near Mill Street in Handbridge- near the Ship Inn. I then run over the historic Old Dee Bridge, which is about 100m long, then right down below the city walls, along The Groves, along the River Dee. I'm not sure how long I get but I should run quite far down the river. This is a really busy stretch of Chester, so I imagine it will be packed. I guess that's a good thing, the more people the better- I do empathise with some torchbearers I've watched on the Torchcam who've had very little local support which slightly lessens the awesomeness of the experience.
Scenically, it's superior. I have the River Dee and weir nearby at all times and I imagine people will crowd the city walls. If you want to come and watch- get to the Chester side of the Old Dee Bridge near Hickories Smokehouse by this time- but be early, the roads will be gridlocked and the traffic in Chester will be moving at snail pace, walk/run/cycle/fly if possible. 

This is the view I will have: 

Along with the 6 Metropolitan Police, I am joined by a Roman Guard at some point in my stretch. This will probably mean I get more press interest than the others, which is cool I guess. If you can't make it on the day, you can watch me and all the other torch-bearers live online at www.bbc.co.uk/torchrelay. I've got a huge number of people who've said they're going to come and support me, even people I hardly know- which is fantastic. Therefore I will no doubt have plenty of photo's and videos to share of the event for the blog. Watching the feed already, I have been shocked at the complexity of the relay, and also pleased at the amount of support the flame has had on it's journey through UK towns and villages. I simply cannot wait.
I am unsure how I am going to carry the flame, as daft as it sounds. I don't want to walk but don't want my moment to shine to end too quickly. I'm not going to wave because it looks daft, but I'm considering a few daft things I could to bring more attention to my section, not sure what though.

I cannot describe how much of an honour it is to carry the torch, even now, it still hasn't completely sunk in, and I don't think it will until afterwards. Receiving my pack with my time and location was amazing.
The London 2012 Olympic Torchbearers are some of the most amazing people I have ever met. Ordinary people with an extraordinary difference, ambitions to succeed, inspiring views on life and a selfless devotion to helping others. There are people from all backgrounds, for different reasons, not even sure if I fit in there- but I'm hugely honoured and grateful to be part of this. I also can't thank Samantha Rogers enough for nominating me- it's changed my life. There are far too many to mention, but I've made some fantastic friends as a torch-bearer. The Coca-Cola Future Flames group is amazing, we have such a laugh and support each other. Some friends will be friends for life- I know these will. Speaking to some of them, feels like speaking to people I've known all my life. Yet it's one humble and inspiring bunch- the people that are making a difference to the country, bringing some much needed initiative and inspiration. I think the issue with the world is a lack of initiative and because people complain about a problem before doing something positive about it. The world is not perfect, and it never will be. There is also too much negativity and falling out- life is too short to fall out with people, we need to be forgiving with each other. The majority of the torchbearers are great role models for us all in our lazy population. I'm not religious, and please don't envisage me as some long-haired hippy living in a flower-power Volkswagen van and a 'peace' necklace- these are purely observations. They're an awesome bunch. There's some great opportunities coming up- such as the John O'Groats to Land's End bike ride I'm doing with 2 other torchbearers I've met, to raise money for Epilepsy Action and Cancer Research UK. Had I not been a torchbearer, this would not have happened. There's a torch-bearer ball in October which I'm looking forward to. We're all supporting and encouraging each other through our journey, we're like one big family- it's fantastic. It's great to finally be able to communicate with people on a similar level to myself- wanting to change the world and make it a better place, overcoming their own issues along the way, they would put many people to shame.

It would appear that I may have already partially achieved this. I had a comment on my 3 Peaks Youtube video from a bloke telling me I'd encouraged him to do to the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge, although he's too old for the National. A 12 year old boy wrote to me to say I'd inspired him to do the 3 Peaks Challenge for charity. Friends and strangers come to me for charity fundraising advice and advice on the 3 Peaks and I've done my best to help as much as I can. I have no expertise in this, just experience learnt from practice- there is plenty more charity fundraising to come from me. I hope to raise £1 million for charity before I die.
There are 2 youngsters competing to become the Youngest Solo 3 Peaks Challenge record holders. I will admit I am disappointed that I may lose the title of something which has changed my life beyond belief, but also pleased that I have helped to inspire and bring initiative into youth. If they fundraise for charity when they do it, even better. There is no better compliment than to be copied. Besides, I will break another record sometime soon. The initiative that came to my head to complete the 3 Peaks, of which I'm not sure where it came from, has proved how rewarding initiative and ambition can be- you literally harvest pleasure, new experiences and opportunities which stay with you for life. I hope my predecessors enjoy the same. Last night I was 'ambushed' on my way out of work by a couple who'd heard about me (and the lady wanted a hug from a torchbearer), got told several times I was a 'hero to the village' and an inspiration to her children, she was over the moon when I agreed to bring my torch round for her mum's birthday and her husband, who owns a golf club, said he'd help me out with my fundraising. Fantastic. Good to know I'm on the right track.

On the same night as the torch, I will be appearing on BBC North West Tonight. So make sure you Sky+ it if you're coming to watch! They came out to film me on the Tuesday 15th May. It was really enjoyable, albeit a little nerve-wracking. I got to wear my Mont Blanc t-shirts with my charities logo's on, sadly the shirt cost £35. I was hoping for some footage up the Old Pale in Delamere where I frequently run/bike/walk, sadly lightning and thunder put the cameraman off- so they filmed me walking in the forest below, which was disappointing. I probably looked a little daft in my Mont Blanc gear and 65 litre rucksack, walking in the Cheshire countryside. The hailstones and rain made it awful- unsurprisingly the following day we had glorious sunshine. I will get a recording of the feature for the TV and post it here after Tuesday.

Sadly, my aunty Julie died yesterday morning. She had previously beaten breast cancer but was diagnosed with a brain tumour before Christmas. It was an aggressive form and despite months of arduous treatment and suffering for her and my family, the battle was lost. I only saw her twice whilst she was ill, and it was upsetting to see the change in her condition. She fought hard but even with the full and admirable support from her family, she was beaten. This is partially why I am fundraising for Cancer Research UK. My grandad died of cancer shortly before I was born. I never got to meet him. I bet he'd be really proud of me today, and it's saddening that both him and my aunt won't be there on Tuesday. But I will carry the flame high for them both, to remember them, I know they'll be watching and they'll have the best view. My aunty was an amazing, beautiful person with a warm smile and a heart of gold, stunning in both senses of the word, she was the one who kept the family smiling and made us laugh, her and my mum were very close. I'm going to be making a speech at her funeral next Friday, as she deserves the best send off possible. As weird as it sounds, we'll be trying to make it a celebration of her life, as she wanted us all to be happy. But her loss will be difficult for us all. I've also decided that I'm going to bring a picture of both her and my grandad to the summit of Mont Blanc with me.

My grandma and mum told me that the whole torch experience for me has been a welcome distraction to them and has kept them going through the tough months. This makes me even more grateful for being a torchbearer. Seeing my family in tears yesterday was horrible. It was a shock to them, even though they'd been expecting it for months when it became terminal. It's heart-breaking, and I feel so sorry for everyone. She'll be missed badly. It's spurred me on to raise even more money for charity.

My torch relay banner for the 29th:

I've now raised over £1100 thanks to generous donations. I know that my charity night next month will make nearly £2000. My charity auction seems to be going well and I've been collecting a few things for my raffle. Still a huge amount of work to do, along with A-levels, and the 1am-2am bedtimes are set to stay for a while. I'm knackered, but determined.

Thanks to my mum and her music producer friend 'Geezer', I've been lucky to get a signed Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars CD for the auction, which will probably be sell for £60-100 each:

Tickets will be up for sale for the charity evening from next week. It's crazily busy. I've got the Kelsall Folk Festival next weekend and bank holiday. I'm going to charge people a minimum donation of £5 for a picture with the torch at these events, with all funds going to my charities. I'm not selling the torch, although I was tempted! I'm going to Duddon and Delamere Primary Schools after carrying the torch, on Thursday and Friday. I've got to send my photo to a few websites, press and a magazine. Diane Mitchell, who I used to work for, has been very kindly growing plants for me to sell at my events, like the Folk Festival and Steam Rally, and the Kelsall Primary school fair. The proceeds will all go to my charities. Thanks Diane, I appreciate it!

Powertraveller (www.powertraveller.com) have agreed to send me some kit for my Mont Blanc climb and I'm waiting for confirmation off another. Great stuff. Thanks to Squash Falconer and Tim Emmett for the support. 
I went to Manchester last week to see my billboard, on New Bailey Street in Salford with another torchbearer, Jodie. Pretty awesome feeling!

Lastly, Here's some of the press I've been involved in, firstly a Chester Chronicle article about the torch:

On the www.handbridge.com website:

On the homepage of the Coca-Cola website:

And a 2 1/2 page spread in the Epilepsy Action magazine (I was a childhood epileptic):

Huge well done to friends Becky Bellworthy and Matthew Dieumguard-Thornton for summitting Everest this week. Can't wait to be up there myself.

I promised you I'd get a blog post done before the big event, but I didn't promise it'd be a short one ;-)

Keep believing, keep achieving. Live the Dream.

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