Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The London 2012 Olympic Flame- The aftermath...

Ah, here I am babbling on about the torch again. I've repeatedly broken my promise to keep my blog updated more often in lovely little bite-size chunks, but here I am again! I should update you on my Mont Blanc climb which is THIS week!!! But I'll do that tomorrow. I've beaten my target by over £500 and my unofficial total now stands at £5300!! Helping to draw the line on deforestation and in memory of my aunty Julie who died of a brain tumour in May. So when it's already sadly been more than one month since my moment to shine with the Olympic flame, I need to give you an update on what's been going on. I don't need to tell you how amazing, incredible and overwhelming the experience was, my last blog explains that and the pictures speak for themselves. The epic journey of the flame has continued in full force, with the amazing people of the UK enjoying their moments and the country itself enjoying watching it in their hometown, with over 9 million people watching it so far.

After Chester it went to Stoke-on-Trent and spent the rest of it's journey travelling North, then East, and now it's in Reading. Sadly, it's coming to a close soon. And what's worse, is that I'm going to miss the final week of the relay as I'm climbing Mont Blanc, this is when it comes to London when the crowds will be even bigger, and some friends are running. I would have loved to have gone down to watch it, one more time, but I was busy when it came to Manchester. I can't. And it's driving me crackers. But hey-ho. Thankfully the climb will distract me, and it will be done by the time of the opening ceremony, so I'll be able to watch the ceremony via TV in Chamonix, hopefully. And when I see it, on the 27th of July, I think I'm going to be very very emotional, and honoured to have been part of it. I regret many things. But I was so busy before the relay that I didn't even think to go and watch the relay before it came to Chester- had I done I would have been able to prepare more for it. It hit me suddenly that the torch relay was moving further south and I was losing my chance to go and see it again. Last Sunday I went down to Milton Keynes and stayed with my dad, the next day my torchbearer friend Kim, who I'd met through the Facebook group and has since become like a big sister to me, became taxi service for the morning and thanks to her I got to see the flame in Milton Keynes that morning. I was actually really excited to see it, and although it's likely it's due to me being part of it, there was a great atmosphere around for 9am- no wonder people are enjoying watching it so much! I spoke to one of the torch motorcycle team and passed on my regards to the officers who escorted me through Chester. I legged it after the torch, with 5 torchbearers in MK, which in flat shoes brought on my shin splints which have had me out of running for a frustrating 3 months now (and will make Mt Blanc harder than it already is). Passed one of the torchbearers who'd just ran and saw the same look of awe that I had. Patted him on the back and said 'Well done', would have told him that I'm a torchbearer too but once again it's a case of my speech problem ruling the roost. We went to watch our friend Gloria run in Winslow, gave her a really pleasant surprise too, I got to say hello to Shakira, the police officer who gave me my briefing before my run on the bike and see the magic of it all again. You can see me on torch cam running alongside her! I got mobbed again for pictures, as I took my torch. And on the train home, people were walking past and whispering to their partners 'he's got an Olympic torch', I just smiled back. Some train conductors on the platform saw it in it's bag and shouted over 'He's got a torch!'. Fame hey?

Gloria before her moment to shine.
3 torchbearers
In the moment.
I knew getting the torch out was a bad idea...


But since the 29th, it's been as much of a blur as the actual 2 or 3 minutes I carried the Olympic flame for. I don't remember much of that either. The day after my torch day I cycled to Chester at 6am, on 4 hours sleep, to watch the torch leave Chester for probably the last time in a very long time. I felt numb and drained all morning, it hadn't quite hit me what I'd just done. I actually felt gutted, that it was over so suddenly.
I watched Emma and Jenny run with the torch, and the crowds were very different this time, they were very quiet and small. There was barely space to move on the Tuesday! I actually felt a huge low, but it was nice to see the flame again at that time of morning. It was emotional to see the torch leave Chester in convoy. I cycled down to The Groves, and a tear came to my eye to see it all so quiet, so dead, so normal. This bridge would now become a very special place in my heart, for the rest of my life.
Eerily quiet. Back to normality, but part of history.

I got home that morning and sort of shuffled around my room wondering what to do with myself. Then I got a call off my head of year to ask where I was. Seems in the manic-ness of the night before I'd forgotten about my Geography exam! Oops.
That night all the kids from my road were coming round for photo's with it!
My first 'torch gig' wasn't until the 12th of June, but before then I was taking the torch round to friends and family and having lots of pictures taken.

On the 12th I went and spoke to the kids at my old primary school, Kelsall. A lot has changed in 6 years.I bet the teachers never thought the shy individual who left there with Epilepsy, speech problems, anxiety disorders, panic attacks and lack of confidence, would be coming back with an Olympic torch. The headteacher put on a London 2012 promo video that I hadn't seen before, and to see the history of it along with 'Greatest Day' by Take That playing, hit me hard. I was quite emotional.
I had been invited to their sports day too but this was sadly cancelled twice due to the typical British weather which has plagued us for what feels like an eternity (but thankfully, it was gorgeous on the 29th of May).
2 days after, still away with the fairies, I went to Duddon Primary School too, had a good talk there and I posed for a photo with every single kid in the school, to be used on their school reports!

The next day, through the post I had a pack with 30 letters in, handwritten with hand-drawings, from all the kids. I went to the local care home and had some photos taken with the residents, and it was lovely to speak to them. I really felt like I'd made their day. I went to the Kelsall Folk Festival and sold £60 of £1 pictures eith my torch there, which went down well. Got drenched as always. The same night our road had a Jubilee Street Party, which was great. My neighbour Dave Goodier is a torchbearer too, would you believe it. 8000 and 2 on the same road! Would have been great if we'd passed the flame to each other. We got some great pics with our torches and all the kids got to hold them too. I was due to go to the Kelsall Steam Rally and very sadly this was cancelled, so I lost a great fundraising and torch-sharing opportunity. That day the torch was due in Manchester but I was so busy I decided not to go. I regret that now. In the meantime I took the torch to local shops, friends, family and neighbours. I took it to my running club, West Cheshire AC, twice, and let everyone have pictures with it. I was involved in their sponsorship shoot with Essar. The photo is going to be used in local newspapers I'm told. Wish I could be running again though! The local butchers, chemist, cafe- they all wanted a photo with it! I live in a small rural area so sadly there aren't many schools around me. It was only after Kelsall that I decided I want to do more schools, but by this point, most had already been done. Leaving only a few small local schools to visit. I wish I'd been more prepared and contacted them in advance, but like with this whole experience, you just never expect it to happen. I got on the phone and got lots of others sorted though, sadly not as much as I'd like.

 The best birthday cake I'll ever have!
'Mine!'... ;-)

My Physics teacher Mr Stone!
I started a race at Tattenhall, the 10 mile Tough Team- that was fun. The race director introduced me at the start, in front of 150 runners, who clapped me, then as I thrust the torch down they all set off. My friend Rob came 2nd which was great. After I got mobbed for photos, and ended up having to email lots to different runners! And would you believe it, on the same night I met two other torchbearers- Joe Beswick and Emily, a young runner like myself. Shame we didn't get a photo of us all. Great to speak to them about their experiences. Mobbed for photos for the whole night, was great fun. My next torch gig, as I started to call them, was at Utkinton Primary school. This was a great little assembly and I got clapped at the end, the headteacher said I was a big inspiration to the kids. Got some great photos too. Did a talk at Eaton Primary School and let the kids hold it, and their teacher took a photo of thm all holding it, with a big smile. Next it was taking it to the Ship Inn in Handbridge, who got some great footage of me, as this is exactly where I started my run. The owner Ben very kindly gave me it all on a disk, and it was great to tell them all about it. They've got photos of me all over the walls, outside their restaurant. A moment of history for them too! I sent out emails and phoned people, making myself available for any opportunities possible, but sadly I was quite late. I took my torch into school for photos with Lauren, the girl also in my school who was a torchbearer, the day after me in Wrexham.

 The last few nervous moments..
 My audience...

 My briefing, before the flame arrives

And this great video, thanks Ben!

I then took the torch to the Brownies in Tarporley and Delamere- the Tarporley lot kindly brought some spare change for my charity fundraising. On the weekend of the 30th June, the day after my charity night, me and the torch came straight from the Kelsall summer fair to the Ashton Hayes summer fair, where I posed for some pics with the torch and plenty of kids!

I would have loved to have stayed and handed out prizes but I had to go straight from there to catch a train to Birmingham. Met up with loads of fellow Coca-Cola torchbearers in the VIP area. Took me ages to get in and lots of panic and hassle and running around. I was refused entry but showed them a picture of me as a torchbearer and forced my way in, relief! Had the most amazing and emotional night with everyone. People I'd spoken to and had a laugh with for months and shared the journey with were now here, it was brilliant. We got some pics and then headed to the concert. We had an emotional reunion with Dani from Coca-Cola, who'd been there at the start of my torch run. She called Dave, one of the Metropolitan Police Torch Security Team (who have the best job ever!). He didn't run with me in Chester but somehow recognised me. It was great to speak to him and hear his perspective of it all. There's a torch-bearer 'ball' being held in Leicester in October, where we all have a meet up, over a hundred of us- that should be great fun. The Metropolitan Police are all invited. It will be an awesome night.
We saw the flame arrive at the concert and light the cauldron and it brought on the goosebumps once again. Happy memories of that day- oh, and even though the train was late and nearly made me miss the concert, the flame passed below us under the bridge on the way there! Amazing.

 Me and PC Dave Robson
 Friends for life

This weekend just gone I went to the Guilden Sutton summer fair to find another torch already there! So now we had two torches posing for pictures, with proceeds going to a cancer charity, so all good. Met some people who'd seen me run, which was great to ask them if they liked it.

Guilden Sutton fete and glorious weather for a change!

From there I went straight to the Delamere Forest visitors centre to see my fundraiser friend Andrew. Some boy scouts saw it when I was showing him and came running over for pictures! Then I couldn't believe it, when after they'd squabbled over it, that two came over and asked for an autograph! Amazing! Went home with a smile on my face. Took the torch up the Old Pale hill near me one night and got some cool shots of it. Sadly all this travelling has had it's toll on the torch, it's now got a big dent on it :( Nevertheless, I went to Grove Street Primary School in Bebington on Monday. My friends mum is the headteacher there, so I asked if she'd like me to come. This was the best yet. Spoke in front of 300, maybe more. The speech problem that once made me anxious to the extent of skipping lessons and being a nervous wreck for many years of my life, that still sometimes frustrates me today, was gone. I didn't care about my speech, I just got on with sharing my experiences and showing them all the videos. When I showed them torch cam live, my friend Dom was running, which was amazing! This time I got asked some amazing questions. Definitely better than the usual and sadly common 'Are you selling it?' or 'is it real?'. I'm not selling it. It's priceless. Most people seem to think it's heavy. The last question of the day was simply 'Thankyou for bringing the torch to our school'. I was humbled. Well worth the train trip. At the end a teacher came over and said she wanted to sponsor me.

And I started the Eaton Primary school sports day, with a mini police escort of 100 kids chasing me. Handed out the awards too.

So what next? Well. Sadly my Mont Blanc climb is impairing my ability to make the most of the experience. I've started to write a diary of it, which I imagine will take a while, and I made a compilation video showing my story and journey as a torchbearer from ruins to awesomeness (sadly not riches, but money doesn't buy experiences like these). I'm going to get some big pictures of my run printed to be framed in the house and given to family. I've bought loads of Team GB merchandise too, putting the flag up was a risky operation...
 Olympified and proud supporters of Team GB!

I've been making an effort to watch the BBC Torch Cam as much as I can, watch the highlight videos and reading/watching it in the news, online, newspapers, wherever- just trying to keep up to date with it. Watching interviews, speaking to new friends, buying loads of personalised Team GB merchandise. It's amazing. It's been to all sorts of places, in all sorts of weather, with all sorts of people. What an epic and proud moment for the country. I feel honoured and humbled to have carried the same flame as Sir Chris Hoy, Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Bobby Charlton, Seb Coe, Sir Roger Bannister, Dame Kelly Holmes and dozens of Olympians, to name but a few. It will be carried by Kenton Cool- a huge idol of mine.

Even the emotional moments like Ben Parkinson, the most severely injured Afghan war casualty, determined to get up and walk despite his two false legs. It took him 26 minutes, 26 minutes of courage, bravery and inspiration. I think even the police were close to tears. I have carried the same flame as such heroes.

Even a proposal!...
Wow. It's been from Stonehenge to Snowdon, Bristol to Birmingham.. down zip wires, on planes, on jetpacks, on ice skates, on cable cars, boats, trains... you name it. It's even attracted streakers and had a few small mishaps but it's a complex operation to say the least. I think it's incredible, although I am part of it. It's just one huge collection of awesome people, I am proud to say I am one of 8000. You hear such amazing stories of the people taking part, many tear-prompting moments. I wonder who is going to light the Olympic Cauldron, either way, when I watch it, I will feel quite emotional to know I was part of it. Even when the flame is extinguished at the closing ceremony, I will feel even more emotional, but the legacy will live on and I have friends for life. Sharing my experience with people keeps the energy alive. The smiles from people holding the torch are priceless. I want to use my experience of epilepsy, depression, speech problems, panic attacks, anxiety disorders, OCD, low self esteem and low self confidence to prove that all obstacles can be overcome. I'm not afraid to be open about my past.

Here is a compilation video which sums everything up, it's quite an emotive piece, worth a watch:

I have tried to support friends as much as possible, share our experiences, but we all know how it feels, so don't need to ask each other. Sadly in just 9 days the relay is over, it feels like it's been going months, well, it has, but it's gone fast and so much has happened I need to be slapped to check I'm not dreaming (no offers, thanks). I don't want it to end, it's saddening. The whole experience of the torch just came and went. Sadly it came at a bad time, I had so much on I didn't even think to realise what I was about to do. I regret a lot about my run. I wish I had engaged the crowd more, looked like I was enjoying it more, hi-5'd people, had more photo's taken, wish my family had been at the start of my run and not the end, thanked the police who ran with me, took it in more, and given my mum a big hug during it and at the end. I can't. I can never do it again. It's frustrating. I was just overwhelmed and away with the fairies, so I can't blame myself. I should stop sounding ungrateful as I was so lucky and blessed to have been chosen as one of 8000. It's changed my life, given me experiences, skills and the confidence which will open up new windows to me in all directions, and best of all I've got the memories, friends and the torch- which is the best reward I could ever ask for. Everything I've been through and suffered for, the torch makes it absolutely worth it. If you want to know why I was chosen, watch my video (and unfortunately I missed out my fundraising!).
Sadly my regrets about the run are ongoing, but I stop and think to myself that there is no way I could have prepared myself for something like that. It was quite simply the Greatest Day of my life. Thankyou LOCOG and Coca-Cola for making it so incredible.

London 2012- Inspire a generation.

No comments:

Post a Comment