Thursday, 14 June 2012

What was it like carrying the London 2012 Olympic Flame in Chester? Words can't describe it!

I've been so so busy recently (2am bed times are becoming a normality). But now, 2 weeks after the long-anticipated event, here I am trying to do justice to the experience with words. I can't. I hope this will build the excitement for the torchbearers yet to run, and give an insight to those who interested, or see the side of view from the person with the torch in hand. It's also helped me to release a lot of emotion and put my memories in one place!

This video captures some of it. Not for those of a sensitive manner. It affected me. It gave me goosebumps.

Awesome. Epic. Insane. Unreal. Incredible. Overwhelming... these are just a few of the words I could possibly use to describe the experience of running with the London 2012 Olympic Flame in Chester on the 29th of May.

 As the flame reached the UK, things got even more exciting.

I'll give you a run down of how the day unfolded. My slot was at 6.08pm so I had plenty of time to wait, I woke up that day (Tuesday) feeling like a big kid at a very big Christmas. I knew I'd be running from Mill Street in Handbridge over the Old Dee Bridge then down The Groves. Fantastic!
The weather seemed great, which was reassuring. I was almost in disbelief that this day, one I had anticipated for months and months, was finally here. It hadn't sunk in anymore than it had 6 months ago, when I got the email to say I'd been chosen as a torch-bearer out of over 40,000 hopefuls, and I subsequently jumped off my chair in the school library. To this day and probably for a long time, I will never ever feel that excited again. I was going to be part of history, I was in ecstatic disbelief.

As time passed, more and more opportunities came up. All this whilst attempting schoolwork, training and fundraising/planning for the Mont Blanc climb of course. Very exciting times. Being chosen to carry the torch helped me to beat depression, which I suffered with for 2 months at Christmas. Overall, it has made 2012 without a doubt the best year of my life and I doubt I will ever beat it. My blog has been split between my experiences with the torch and also my Mont Blanc climb so you've probably already seen some of the things I've had the privilege to do and even some of that feels unreal. Meeting Dizzee Rascal, being on billboards, going to the BBC Studios, going on several radio stations (including BBC Radio Merseyside and some others, live), being on BBC North West Tonight TWICE in one show, making loads of awesome friends, getting my torchbearer kit, being in newspapers, being known in the village as 'the torchbearer'... it's been absolutely incredible and I have loved every minute. So here's how my big day went...

I'd previously been sent my uniform with my info pack a couple of weeks prior. I knew I would be running in Chester but exactly where was confirmed at the same time as I got my kit. Three or four hours before I was required to be in Chester, I was in my kit and impatiently raring to go, trying to contemplate what was soon to be happening. Ironically an hour or so before I got a call from the Edge Cycleworks in Chester to say they are sponsoring us for our John O'Groats to Lands End bike ride. My mum, stepdad, grandparents, uncle and his daughter came round to the house and we set off very early to avoid any traffic. Turns out there wasn't any so we got there an hour early. We met the London 2012 officials and some people from Coca-Cola and I was signed in. The rest of the group turned up one by one to the lobby of the Holiday Inn and we all met to share our excitement, chatting and finding out each others stories. We met Bryony from Coca-Cola who was cool and I'd met in London at the photoshoot and it was lovely to catch up with her again, yet sad to say bye for probably the last time. It was a very exciting yet slightly tense atmosphere. I didn't realise that Olympic athlete from Bunbury, Beth Tweddle, was going to be a torchbearer, so I got a photo with her.

Time seemed to take a while to pass in here as we waited to get going. We were then given a 5 minute briefing and were taking lots of photographs with each other, laughing and joking. There wasn't much to learn off the briefing, but I was too nervous to listen anyway. We were then given numbers to stick on our kit- amusingly I was given 118...

Eventually, it was then a matter of some more pictures and the team waving off family and us being led onto one of the shuttlebuses, which was pretty snazzy inside. With all of us and the officials onboard, we set off along the sunny streets of Chester. This was it. We set off towards Saltney and in what felt like minutes, we'd met the London 2012 convoy, with a line of vehicles and flashing lights behind us. The Coca-Cola bus was pretty unmistakable. We were waiting on a road surrounded by people, then as a few police bikes sped past we dropped off our first torchbearer, Beth Tweddle. The excitement built as she was handed her torch and disembarked the bus to cheers of encouragement not only from us but the hundreds of people outside. We then carried on down the route through the streets of Saltney, moving closer to the heart of Chester, with more and more people lining the street.
We all knew it would be our turn to step off the bus very soon. I lost perception of time, I was taking photos and videos of the crowds on my phone, trying to capture the special moment. I didn't recognise where we were. The atmosphere onboard was tense and we sort of looked at each other but didn't say anything. Our London 2012 officials Paige and George were at the front of the bus, George driving. Not your usual miserable bus driver. Waving at everyone en-route. People waving banners at us, taking pictures, waving, cheering, cheerleaders, bands playing, flags, primary schools- everybody was there. We all felt so special. We were the most famous people in Chester. We all felt blown away.


I didn't realise that Alex, the tall Russian guy, was actually an Olympic gold medallist swimmer until afterwards. I got chatting to the guy behind me who turned out to be Jason Maguire, last years Grand National winner. He would carry the flame into the racecourse and light the cauldron.

The crowds got thicker and the number of people on the streets increased further. The excitement was intense, our eyes wide. Think I said 'Can't believe this!' quite a few times to say the least. One by one we got off, waved bye to the team- and before I knew it, Simon, Number 117, was already getting off. I was up next. I would be seeing him soon. My heart started racing. A minute or so later, we took a turn down a steep hill, to an even bigger crowd of people watching us approach. Everyone else would be waiting anxiously at their locations, or already running with it. But as far as I was concerned, ahead of me was the bridge. This was it. I'd watched it for days but now it was my turn to be watched. The bus was clapped as it slowed down near the end of the bridge.

It was a bit of a blur as I got up and got off with my torch and off the bus, I thrust the torch in the air to the crowds delight. I was overwhelmed. There was people everywhere. I was met by just one security guard and a guy from Coca-Cola. Everyone wanted a picture of me with the torch, or themselves with it. I got swarmed. Everyone wanted to know why I'd been chosen etc. I relaxed a little, as I lost perception of time further. I knew it'd be near 6 ish. Then the sponsor vehicles came down the road, making a racket, with music playing and dancers onboard. Not that I took much notice. One after another, the Coca-Cola, Samsung and Lloyds TSB vehicles passed me. They all knew my name somehow and over the microphone comes something like 'Let's have everyone cheering 'Alex Staniforth!'. I can't remember if anybody did cheer, people were just going wild anyway. They'd been pretty quiet as I got off the bus. I remember talking to the Coca-Cola bike guy a bit then down comes a Metropolitan police officer on a road bike, called Shakira. Like the rest of the team she was very friendly but I didn't really listen much as she gave me a last briefing on what to do. I just wanted to get on with it. She tested my torch to check the gas was working. Then as people swarmed me for more pics, police bikes started coming down the road ahead. The security guard was shouting at everyone to get away from me, it was quite frantic. The police bike sped off and ahead, the big London 2012 media van appeared, with the other white and yellow vehicles behind in the convoy. Here was the flame.

As the minibus and truck at front neared, my legs started to go weak and I felt goosebumps on my arms. I stood frozen watching it arrive. It felt unreal. This could NOT be happening now, after months and months. My anxiety was rather noticeable even in the pictures. My torch firmly in my hand, as the police bikes passed me at the side of the road, the big vans slowly appeared, in what felt like seconds. I was gazing at them. My heart pounding. As they neared I could now see the flame, carried by Simon, behind it. It was just 20 metres or so away. The crowd were going wild as he approached, savouring every moment, with me soon about to take over and follow in his footsteps, and those of the legends of our world who have too carried the Olympic flame. I didn't really take much notice of what was going on, I think I remember being ushered to the middle of the road after the second truck, the media bus, passed. Simon was now in full view and walking towards me with a cracking big smile on his face, 6 police either side. All his nervousness clearly gone. His downhill approach was quick. It was like a blur.

 I didn't really see his flame, I'm not sure, I can't remember. It was a blur. Next thing I recall was being at the side of the road and our torches were next to each other, my torch unlit. The police officer comes behind us with a key to the gas valve, without me even realising he'd turned the gas on, and then he pulled my torch away and it was lit.
Everyone over by the River could hear the cheers over in Handbridge, and knew it was coming. From what i've been told, excitement built and the atmosphere was incredible.

The flame was mine. But I don't even remember seeing it! I shook Simon's hand then I turned to face the media van in front of me which was full of guys with expensive filming stuff and cameras flashing away. I think. I don't remember hearing anything but next thing I was running, following the media van. For a short moment, I was one of just 8000 people who would possess the London 2012 olympic flame, the one that's been burning for hundreds of years, in my hand. All eyes on me. Now it was my turn- my moment to shine. I thrust my torch into the air as I set off; to the crowds delight. I felt initially quite shy and anxious, as visible in the pic- knowing everyones eyes were on me and the media vans too. As I set off, with hundreds of people cheering me up until I reached the Old Dee bridge, I felt more at ease. The police either side of me matched my pace, and the media truck sped ahead so that it didn't block the view of the bridge I was running over. It all seems very vacant now. I remember leaving Handbridge to huge cheering and waving- and as I came onto the bridge, the one I'd walked over just a week earlier with quite a different atmosphere, I remember looking ahead and down onto The Groves. I was gobsmacked. The city walls, bridge and the roads along The Groves were absolutely smothered with people, and I was getting closer to them. I now knew I had thousands of eyes and cameras looking towards me- and I knew friends would be watching online, which put more pressure on me in itself.

I actually said out loud 'Oh my god' when I saw every available space full of people, crammed up against the edges of the walls, a sea of flags and cameras. The bridge was only short and didn't take long but I vividly recall looking up at the flame on my torch and thinking for a brief second: 'Every struggle, every hard time, every obstacle, every bit of suffering... it got me here and it's all worth it'... as well as 'Oh my god this is AWESOME!'. I watched it burning, with the gold flame roaring out of the top of the torch against the blue sky. I'd been blessed with the weather- as it was absolutely spot on. I was sort of numb to the surrounding noise but I knew the crowd was getting louder by listening to my video. In fact, on the video I was shocked at how many people there were- it didn't seem that many when I ran towards them. But the support I had, in such a beautiful part of Chester, was overwhelming.
As we neared the end of the bridge I slowed to a walk. There was a few Roman Guards at the side of the bridge as I neared, to 'welcome me into Chester'. I sort of saw them out of the corner of my eye and carried on, starting to run slowly. The River Dee looked stunning from where I was but the sight of the city walls crammed with spectators was even more so. Public weren't allowed on the narrow bridge, giving me all the glory and space with the 5 police officers who followed me over the bridge. They all seemed pretty friendly and I wish I'd spoken to them more. The convoy was behind but I didn't notice. From what I recall through blurred vision, the media truck ahead hadn't turned right where I expected to run, and had instead stayed under the bridge. My anxiety returned very suddenly- I was going to have to follow, and go the wrong way! Thankfully the police kept saying 'Right, go right', and to my relief, we left the bridge to the right and went towards The Groves, shortly after I thrust the flame in the air with a huge cheer from the crowds. The photo's near the bridge show me looking rather miserable despite carrying the Olympic flame due to my momentary panic. I was quite shy. Frustratingly, the feelings and emotions I had were so unlike any other that I cannot describe how I felt, past or present. In fact, many of the photos of me showed me looking serious or unhappy. I can assure you this was not how I felt, I think I was just captured in moments of anxiety! Thankfully I'm smiling on a few. Pictures to treasure.

(This picture has a serious look but it's a great shot, sadly I found this 2 weeks after the run and not straight after when I'd already had to send photos to magazines/websites!)

This video shows the approach of the torch into Chester City Centre, carried by myself. Sadly the bus blocked the view for many people.

Now I was once again surrounded by people, to my left the crowd were behind metal railings, and the mass of people must have been 10 thick, crammed full like Sardines. I was now below the city walls, with my police escort surrounding me as always, running parallel to the River Dee. I saw my friend Vinny and then my dad, stepmum and grandma who'd come from Milton Keynes and Sheffield to watch. I waved to them, but I had decided before my run not to spend the whole run waving at people. I just took it in my stride. The thing was a blur and the sheer mass of people with their eyes on ME overwhelmed me, my head stayed down although I could sense the presence of the people. They were at the side of the barrier clapping, blowing horns and taking pictures- whether it be young, old, primary school groups, families or individuals wanting to capture a glimpse of the Olympic flame visiting their hometown; a very rare and opportunistic moment not to be missed. There were loads of people all along on the walls looking down upon me, every space was taken. Except the path I had- everyone got out of my way (and if they didn't, the police would soon take care of it) having been known to tackle eager parents of fellow torchbearers taking pictures. I didn't even feel the torch, I wasn't aware, I was sort of in a trance. Perhaps a legal high, a rather rare one. I don't know. I envisage going along the walls, jogging slowly and looking out across the beautiful Dee. I didn't hear anything although the noise was unbelievable- does that make sense? I wish I hadn't been so shy though.

This video, filmed from the Dee, will show you what I am talking about. Was delighted to find this to spark memories again. The crowd never looked that big when I saw it!

With a big smile on my face, I carried the torch along at a good pace until I came round the corner to my next mob of people, leaving the mass in Handbridge and by the Old Dee behind, their experience of watching the torch, which will no doubt live with them forever, sadly over. But the thought of them going home with a smile on their faces is wonderful.
The next one was even more overwhelming. I saw my friend James in the mob in the first few people- only he could shout 'Come on Duck Man!' which made my smile even bigger (that's my nickname at the running club). From then on, I had 6-7 people thick crowds either side of the road. Not that I was really aware or I counted. There must have been 2000+ on my stretch alone. It's mind blowing. Still jogging, I was pretty much out of it. Smiling like I've never smiled before, with all perception of time and awareness gone, I was doing the best run I'd ever done. The adrenalin surged through me. The flame was in my hand for this precious moment (well not quite, severe burns would have slightly killed the mood, so the 800g and 800cm of Die-cast aluminium did it for me). I was part of something even bigger than the surrounding crowd of people. Wow. I was on absolute cloud 99. This was insane.

Awaiting the flame. See all the cameras?

The convoy wasn't ahead or behind us due to the narrow path, so we were alone. From the rows and rows of people of all shapes and sizes, I picked out a few faces. Judging by how many people were there, it was surprising I did so. As I seemed to rocket along in a daze like I was tripping- some faces just came to my eye. My head of year, English teacher, running club friends, neighbours (some of which I barely knew!), old teachers, colleagues, family, family friends and my own friends- they were all there. And they were amazing. I only made out a few, but it's weird how I only picked out the people I knew. Everyone else was just a sea of smiling faces. The crowd loved it- and rightly so, it's quite a difference to the usual sights of Chester, and the atmosphere was electric.

                                                          This video shows it quite well.
The police around me didn't steal my glory in anyway and I'm not sure if I even realised they were there. I waved at the people I knew and just looked around, smiling like never before. This was awesome.
People were on shoulders, on walls, railings, holding balloons, flags and a shed load of cameras... but I was holding the global icon of the London 2012 flame which would light the Olympic Games cauldron just 59 days later. I was overwhelmed, elated, almost in disbelief. This was the best thing ever. My shyness certainly didn't disappear as I was the centre of attention, even if people didn't know who I was or why I was there, they still cheered me on and gave me the best recognition of my achievements that I could ever, ever ask for.

Sadly soon enough I caught a glimpse of the next torchbearer, Jean, ahead of me. Although you can never plan for something as unreal as this, I had planned to walk the last part of my stretch. I slowed to a fast walk. I swapped the torch into my other hand, holding it high with pride and triumph. I had considered doing some waves/spins with the torch but I didn't really get the courage to do it. My friend James Lloyd had re-enacted an awesome Jedi manoeuvre with his torch, almost pretending it was a lightsaber. I remember George saying in our briefing that this was our moment to shine and we should do what we like... I was partially tempted to deliberately drop it, as I knew I'd get so much press for it, and entertain the crowd beyond belief! But unusually for me I opted away from individuality and in for doing the same as most people and keeping the torch normally aloft, looking like a true ambassador for the Olympics... I hope. 

And the flame arrives
I barely recalled getting the flame and before I knew it, my chance to run with the torch, the once in a lifetime experience... was nearly over, as dulls it sounds, it was the truth. But what an experience I had just had. I neared Jean and was too busy looking around, my mum and stepdad were there with a huge red Coca-Cola banner with my motto of 'Aspire to climb as high as you can dream'. The noise sort of followed and echoed around me towards the end, and that feeling, although I can't describe it, will always stay with me. Trying to make the most of every last step,  the police officer who lit my torch now grabbed my torch and put it to Jean's, as she moved into the middle of the road, with a beaming smile on her face and the same subtle anxiety I had felt showing in her eyes. I didn't really take much notice, next thing I knew my torch was away from hers and the flame had caught it. Watching back on the video, I'd actually savoured it right to the very last second as I thrust the torch in the air whilst the rather shorter police officer tried to reach it (I'm 6 foot 3)!

There was still a big smile on my face regardless, even if my sub consciousness wasn't there. My torch, firmly gripped, was now turned off forever by the police escort officer who'd remained with me. My moment was over, but the legacy, memories and experience, would live on. The best 3 minutes or so of my life and it hadn't quite sunk in what I'd just done. Quality not quantity. I didn't get chance, because before I could go and give mum a well deserved hug, as she'd been waiting at the changeover point, or talk to people for pictures- I was rushed off in pursuit of the other torchbearer by the police officer. I wanted to go and share the experience with everyone, to try and explain it, but I hadn't chance. Before I'd even realised I'd done it, I didn't even have a chance to be a lost sheep. Full of emotion, I waved to my crowd behind and we followed Jean. The shuttle bus that picked the torchbearers up couldn't get down The Groves as it was too narrow, so we had to catch up with it further on. So I technically got a second stretch. Although it wasn't quite the same, as I didn't have the flame, it was quite enjoyable even though I wanted to stay and reminisce on what I'd just done. All eyes were on Jean and we kept our distance so not to steal her glory. I briefly chatted to the bloke and we had to jog a bit to catch up. We were treated like the most special people in Chester, like some sort of covert operation, we had to have police at all times. The support from the public was still tremendous as we ran through the park but I was still numb to the noise. A few friends had got the wrong spot as I saw them here instead of the river side, despite regular and if not excessive Facebook posts to remind people, but this was like my wedding day!

And to be given this experience, at my age, how grateful I felt. As we ran, the sadness that it was over hit me, as did the realization of what had just happened. I didn't take much in. We kept jogging and walking and I enjoyed the probably last time in my life when I would have thousands of people cheering me through with my extinguished torch. It was still pretty hot on top when I touched it. This torch was now even more special. 

The blur continued and after watching Alex Popov and Sandy Maciver pass on the flame below the Eastgate Clock in Chester, we were in awe. We were then ushered through the mob and into the shuttle buses by the police. Helen had just ran through the ampitheatre and had joined us. All in a state of shock, getting back on the bus was a different atmosphere this time!

We were all beaming. The anxiety had gone. And it felt like we'd only been off it for a minute or so, nervously contemplating the journey ahead. Now we were all absolutely buzzing. The crowds off the bridge were big, but these were even better. Everyone was speechless! We then set off towards the racecourse. This part was almost as good. We were like VIP's, we felt like the Queen, and I was personally awestruck as we watched the lines and lines of people waving and welcoming us through the streets of Chester. If our torch runs weren't good enough, we were now the most famous people in Chester. All of us smiling and beaming, waving back. Everyone wanted to see the bus with the olympic flame carriers on. We'd followed the flames route, soon picking up Olga and Caitlin who were just as excited. Jason had long gone, being dropped off with his horse outside the race course. We didn't speak except to say how epic it was, I sat next to Beth Tweddle with my torch. The crowds were unbelievable. Jason had lit the cauldron on his horse Overturn, and what an amazing experience he got for an amazing bloke. Let the party begin.

As we got to the race-course, we were almost given a heroes welcome. And after months and months, our moments had come and gone. We were back where we started, just hours later. We then got off to be mobbed by newspapers, radio, family, friends- people wanting pictures with the torch- everyone. It just carried on! We had to wait a few minutes each for our torches to be decommissioned, the gas removed, so we couldn't relight them again and go for a jog whenever we felt down.

But before then, I was interviewed by Heart FM, another radio station and then by Handbridge.com reporter Rob who asked me some good questions. Then my picture taken. Then the guy from Coca-Cola dragged me across the race course- well, we had to leg it. I left mum once again as she'd been dying to see me. I was a bit embarassed to hug her, but before I could, me and Jack were running through the growing crowds, me still in my uniform. Then we were going up steps to the top of the racecourse, where Roger Johnson and a camera crew along with two other presenters were standing. I was going to be on BBC North West Tonight news, twice in the same show. This day couldn't get better. Sadly, my interview didn't go too well but will be a comedy hit forever.

Roger recognised me from the BBC School Report in March. Then a minute or so later I was directed into position then I was live on air. I was asked about where I'd ran, and why I was a torchbearer. As some footage of the torch came on and off I was still standing there. Turns out the camera had only moved slightly. I was still there, smiling, in a trance. You can see me there awkwardly, then a hand tugging at my arm, harder and harder until I realised and shuffled out of the shot. Pretty embarassing. 

Then as promised, I was rushed back to the bus in time to get my torch. We all then posed for a pic with our torches out in front of the bus, perhaps the last assembly of us, where we'd all shared a special bond and important role of safely carrying the flame. I really hope to see all of these people again and hopefully I can, too. After that we were crowded around for further pics, we couldn't escape. Then we sort of dispersed with our torches. I wish I'd got the contact numbers of the others. But it was all a blur and it was far from over...

I finally got chance to speak to my mum who'd been waiting for me. Then we tried to get to the VIP area I'd been invited to. But I think I managed about one metre a minute. EVERYONE wanted a picture with the torch, more than me. They wanted their own bit of history. And fair enough.
(Proud mum)

Mum even got a bit impatient too. It went on for half an hour or so, it was tiring. Unfortunately my phone battery died and I couldn't call the friends who were there to arrange a photo. Absolute pain, but I'll get another with them. The flame was now roaring away in the cauldron. I continued to get mobbed as did everyone else, and I met up with some other friends who found me. Sadly my dad and grandma had to go back to Milton Keynes and Sheffield so had to shoot off without a picture. I felt overwhelmed by the pictures, it was quite stressful. But I thought to myself, this is a once in a lifetime experience. This won't happen again. So I endured it further and even managed to get some groupies ;-) (Only joking).

We then went in the VIP bit and got to meet some of the other torchbearers from earlier in the day. I'd not eaten for hours, and except a complementary Coke in the bus (which I had to try not to spill on my ironed white shiny uniform, trust me, i'm hopeless). Free cake went down well.

I told the mayor of Chester about why I'd been chosen. But the biggest question of the night was 'Can I hold it?'. It got repetitive but to see people so excited about something which was mine, was humbling. People were asking me all sorts of questions, sadly another common one was 'Are you selling it?'.
No. It's gorgeous. I am not selling something as pricelessly awesome as that.
People said lovely things like 'you must be special' and just generally congratulated me for running with the torch. We were the most important and famous people there that night. And I will never forget that day, or night. I was soon shattered. I met up with James and Gemma who ended up being my security team, and determined to make the most of the experience which was rocketing away, we walked around the evening party of the racecourse. Possibly a bad idea.

(My security team)

Most of my fellow torchbearers had sadly gone home- I had hoped to speak to them about it. They were probably as tired as me. Leaving me to get mobbed! Everywhere I went 'TORCH! Can we have a picture?'. I couldn't say no. It just got mental, but what an experience. There was lots of excited kids and I felt so proud to be carrying it. I hope I can be an inspiration to them and I wanted to share the experience with them, and give them an opportunity they will likely never get again. And nor will I. Their faces were great.
Some guy forcibly pulled my torch away but I was soon to pull it back. I met my friend Andy who gave me a card telling me how proud he was to know me as a friend, after I posed for a picture. My phone was flooded with texts before it died. I was so unbelievably happy. I even met some school teachers, including one I hadn't seen for ages, he was so pleased but surprised to see me in a London 2012 tracksuit, with one of only 8000 torches, and how I had changed. Sadly most people didn't realise that it's the flame that's passed on, not the torch. Leaving my torch out, I left myself open to ambush! I had to run away in the end, i'd definitely had enough. I was exhausted. Adrenalin had drained me.

When we watched the fireworks finale, I was so weary, I needed to go. Knowing the 29th of May was coming to a close was saddening and I got emotional. The walk to the car through Chester was long and miserable. I was so sad it was over but buzzing at the same time. I hit a bit of a low.

As we left Chester, my mind was tired, trying to decide whether the past 5 hours, or even the past 6 months, had indeed happened. I stayed up till 2am that morning, glancing over at my newly acquired torch. I somehow used my last surge of adrenalin to get up at 6am to cycle to Chester. I wanted to watch the torch leave, carried by friend Emma Jones, as I had helped bring it there, it was quite sad to watch. The atmosphere was completely different, very quiet and strange. But it was weird seeing it from my perspective having carried it just the day earlier. I was so glad to have carried it when I did and I was so lucky to get my spot too, it was amazing. We were blessed with great weather too. I managed to forget my Geography exam that morning, in the confusion and manicness from the events of the previous day. But exams can be resit, the torch cannot.

So as you can see, I've taken a lot of time to give you probably the most emotive and descriptive account of carrying the Olympic torch on the web. If you bother to read to the bottom, thankyou. Most of it may not make sense I'm afraid. Only myself and the other torchbearers know the feeling.
I shall summarise for now. Carrying the flame, is the best and most epic thing I've ever done and will ever get the privilege to do. Every struggle and obstacle I have suffered with and overcome, made this the ultimate reward. There is no better recognition than to be part of this and out of a country, be selected as one of 8000. I cannot describe how grateful, honoured and humbled I am. It still hasn't quite sunk in. I'm not sure if it will. As I watch the flame move across the country, I get emotional, as I know exactly how it feels. Watching it beforehand helped to build the excitement, but it's nothing like the real thing. Only a few people get to experience that. The months and months got better, and when the torch relay begun, and the flame made it's way to me- things just got so exciting. It was fantastic. Absolutely brilliant. When I watch the Olympic cauldron light in London on the 27th of July, I imagine it will set in, what I've done. I helped bring it there. I feel so lucky.

I've followed in famous footsteps and been part of London 2012. I've held a global sporting icon and been an ambassador for the Olympics and young people, and I hope this can inspire other young people to go out and achieve their goals and make a difference. As a 'Future flame', this is why I've been chosen. If I hadn't, well, I wouldn't be here. Not many people can say they have. It's a remarkable chain of circumstances that led to me being a torchbearer, and things have worked out like a miracle. I am incredibly grateful and humbled. I owe my nominator Sam Rogers the biggest hug ever for giving me this chance- i'd never have thought about it otherwise. Or been one of 8000. The best present ever. Happy faces :o)

(Me and Sam)
It was the best, most surreal, unbelievable, amazing and most unforgettable day and moment of my life. I loved it all and would do anything to do it all again, slightly differently- but you can never prepare for a welcome like that. After much anticipation, it comes and goes very quick, faster than anyone will ever be able to fully absorb and make the most of it, but I tried my best, And they key thing is to enjoy it. I certainly did a lot more than enjoy it! There are some regrets but I can't change those.

I want to thank the so many people who came along, the friends I have made and the ones who supported me, and the UK for welcoming and celebrating the Olympic torch's epic journey. I want to thank LOCOG and Coca-Cola for making it possible.

Last year I would never ever have dreamed to be here, doing this. Ever. It's a dream come true, even though I could never have dreamt it. It hasn't quite sunk in. From running through the gate at the bottom of Mt Snowdon and successfully completing the National 3 Peaks Challenge solo and becoming the youngest person ever to do so, I'd never have envisaged it would lead to this. That was the best thing I ever did for this reason. Sadly my aunty had died just days earlier and this made the day quite sad for my family, as she would have loved to be here. We wished she was there too. She would be watching down in spirit, and I hope I did her and my grandad proud.

Words cannot do justice to the experience, which I will always savour and the memories that come back. The feeling of the flame on my torch was empowering and like no other. Right now, 2.5 weeks later, it still seems distant, although I am so proud of what I have done and feel blessed to be here.  The relay won't continue forever, and this is a once in a lifetime thing, I will never get another chance. But I carried the London 2012 Olympic Flame with pride, passion and a pure sense of happiness. It's been the best year of my life as a result, it's changed who I am  for the better and opened up a million windows and boosted my confidence beyond belief. I'm enjoying the hype while it lasts. I look forward to cheering on my newly-acquired friends as they too participate in global history.  Kids are knocking on the door for pictures. I'm starting a race next week with my torch. Things to be treasured. And remembered- to bring a smile to my face for many years to come. I've made some amazing friends on the Coca-Cola future flames Facebook group, I haven't been able to stay off it. These will no doubt be friends for life. They are the most awesome bunch of people I've ever met.

I wish I could do it all again. I can't. But I'm honoured to have carried the flame and loved every second.

Something to show the grandkids for sure. Or the grandparents.

All I have left is my torch, pictures, videos and my uniform. But the legacy will live on forever and ever. London 2012 is one of the best things to ever happen to the UK. Every time I see the 5 rings or Team GB, I get a warming feeling of pride and purpose. I am part of this.

And as for climbing Mont Blanc...

Only joking- I'm off to bed... but the flame never dies. Thanks for reading. And if you liked why not donate to my page at www.virginmoneygiving.com/montblanc2012

'All initiative shall be rewarded. You miss 100% of the shots you never take. And sometimes you get very lucky"- (true story). Keep believing, keep achieving... COME ON TEAM GB!

1 comment:

  1. Love it! I have yet to run, and this has given me suuuuuuccccchhhh an idea as to what happens on the day. Thank you, Alex for bothering to spend the time putting this together. I think you are wonderful, and you will go far! Much love, Annick x