I got to run in the Olympic Torch Relay today.
The enormity of that statement is just now, hours later, starting to kick in.
I didn’t write an essay. I don’t work for a Sponsor. I don’t have any pull.
I got lucky.
I was helping out as a volunteer at the Pitt Meadows Olympic Torch Relay Celebration… just doing whatever needed doing… like everyone else.
It wasn’t raining, when we showed up at 6 am, and the fog was starting to dissipate… it looked like it was going to be a good day.
Little did I know how good it would be!
I was busy, like a lot of other volunteers and organizers, running here and there, doing whatever the coordinators needed doing. After a bit, I found myself in the Council Chambers, helping tie ribbons for lanyards onto the volunteer nametags.
One of the supervisors had left her Walkie Talkie on the desk, and suddenly, over it, I hear “Where’s Bob ?”
I’m alone at the check in at this point, so I stick my head around the corner of the hallway and, spying the Supervisor who’d called, asked if she was looking for me ?
This is where it all gets very hazy, as things moved VERY quickly.
“Do you want an opportunity ?”
“Sure, I’m happy to help !”
“There is a chance you may get to run in the Torch Relay…”
“……….” (Stunned silence)
“If the person doesn’t show up, in the next ten minutes, would you like to do it ?”
Words at this point cannot express the magnitude of emotions, crowding into my overwhelmed thoughts.
“Of course !” I croak.
A Torch Relay Tracksuit is thrust into my arms, and I am hustled to change, just in case.
My brain is packed with a million thoughts… How can someone NOT show up? This would be so COOL! I wish someone I knew was here to take a photo. Have to remember to smile. Why did they pick me? This can’t be happening. Hurry up, they’re waiting. It won’t matter – the person will have shown up. If the person shows up, can I buy the tracksuit? Enjoy the moment. Stop enjoying the moment, they’re waiting. How could someone NOT SHOW UP?
Five minutes later, the “just in case” waiver is filled out, signed, and the Torch Relay Bus is leaving.
The man giving me instructions is talking so quickly, and my brain is working SO slowly, that I take in NONE of what he tells me.
“Am I carrying a Torch?” I finally get a chance to ask.
“Yes, you are!” he says, as he claps me on the shoulder. “Get on the bus, we’re leaving!”
The bus ride was a humbling experience, as after check-in, my fellow passengers in turn, gave their name, shared how they got to run in the Relay, and what it meant to them to be participating. One young girl in a wheelchair had been hit by a car only two weeks earlier, and although confined to a wheelchair, and having a broken pelvis, she was determined to take the Torch on her leg of the Relay. Another was running for a family member who had passed. Another had been involved in the original Vancouver Bid process. Several had written essays. Some had spearheaded programs at their work.
I got lucky.
When it was my turn to be let off the bus, I got dropped off at the side of the road, and was soon surrounded by a crowd of people. Children and adults alike, goggle-eyed as I let them hold and pose for pictures with the unlit torch. I tried, as much as possible, to give the crowd on the sidewalk the benefit that I had been given, of holding the Olympic Torch for a moment. To share the joyous feeling of this unbelieveable honour.
I was working my way back through the crowd, when the Officials came up to me, having thought I’d gone missing, and told me it was time to get ready to start my leg of the Relay.
It was then I chuckled to myself, as I realized that although I had probably posed for over 100 pictures, I had no photo for myself… I had no camera, and no time to ask anyone to send one to me.
Soon the run was started, and once the choreography of the flame being passed from Torch to Torch was done… I started off.
A steady jog… I wasn’t prepared to rush this.
Close to the end, I slowed to a walk, as I really didn’t want it to end… but seeing the next Torch-bearer, broke back into a jog, as I could sense their excitement and anticipation.
It was over, almost before it had begun… but it was a few moments I shall treasure my whole life.
Today I got lucky. I was given a tremendous honour, priviledge and gift, by people I barely know… who I have no possibility of EVER coming close to being able to adequately say “Thank You” to… But Thank you, Lorna !!! I was humbled to be in the company of the people I met. Both those who carried the Flame on other legs, and those kind people who tend to the Torch carriers. Those people, who, despite having given the same instructions over ten thousand times, know each time, that the person isn’t listening, because their brain is screaming “I have an Olympic Torch in my hands!” and yet just keep on smiling, high fiving and woo-hooing.
Wow, did I have a good day today.