Friday, January 29, 2010

The runner's perspective on carrying the Olympic Flame...

So, I already wrote all about my torch experience on The Evolution of Me, but there are a few other things I wanted to write about that are more appropriate to this blog.

I remember the torch relay from 1988. I remember it coming through Medicine Hat and thinking that the coolest thing ever would be to be a torchbearer. It was even cooler that I had an uncle who got to run with the torch. And, if memory serves me correctly, he ran with it a few times in more remote areas. He worked for Petro Canada, and he was a runner, so it was a perfect fit. But that was his life, not mine.

When the Olympics were announced as coming to Canada, I knew there would be a torch relay, and I just knew I wanted to be a part of it. After seeing the torch in 1988 and celebrating with those red mini torch candles, I just wanted to someday be a part of that. So, when it was announced you had to apply for it by committing to improving your community, being active, helping the environment etc, I knew it was only natural that I would write an essay about being a good example to my boys, and trying to inspire others. I think I managed to do both. Personally, in the last year, I went from having a baby, to becoming a better runner than I ever have been. It took a lot of training and dedication, but it paid off on race days. And, I got someone else inspired and running as well. Cindy, went from being a running drop out, to finishing three 5km races, two 10km races and a half marathon. And she's now planning out her race calendar for this year, and inspiring others as well. It's amazing the power we can have on one another when we support and encourage each other. I look forward to watching more friends become active and want to run.

The day I got the email saying I had been chosen I will never forget. It was an email from Coca Cola and my heart started racing. Then, I opened the email and it clicked to a link that played the Open Happiness song and said "Congratulations, you've been selected as a torchbearer" or something similar. I couldn't believe it. I was absolutely shocked and so super excited. And when I got the uniform in the mail, I immediately had to try it on. It really was real. We travelled to BC and soon I was in a room full of torchbearers. Looking around, everyone was so happy. It was a diverse group of young and old, men and women. And everyone was smiling. We were briefed and soon headed out to be dropped off at our part of the relay. There were huge stickers with our number on them. I was running along Island Road in Oliver BC.

After watching various videos and hearing stories, it was my turn to meet up with my family. I was so nervous. I think the last time I was nervous like that I was in a job interview or speaking in front of people. I was a bit surprised actually. The outfits are white because that is the colour of peace, and we wore the red mittens as a symbol of winter in Canada. I chatted with my family and then I began my part of the journey.

I remember the silence. We were on a scenic road in the middle of interior BC. And it was away from the highway and very quiet. When the RBC and Coke trucks went by, there was music but soon they passed, and then the media vehicle passed, and then I could see the runner who was passing off to me. My torch was turned on, and then I went into the middle of the road to meet him. You could hear the noise coming from the fuel burning in the torch. The torches don't even have to touch each other. Once they were close enough, the flame from his torch lit up my torch. And I could hear this, and the silence around me and no other sounds. I mean, my family cheered me on, but once I was on my way, I was struck by how quiet it actually was. It was so peaceful. I had my escort runner with me, but even he was in behind at first. So, it was just me, on this quiet Island Road. I was just awestruck. Eventually I chatted a bit with the escort runner. When it came time to meet up with the next runner, it was again such a special moment, as the flame was passed on. And then, he was on his way, and my torch was turned off and once again, there was that silence. It was so peaceful.

There are several moments in my running career that have blown me away. The energy at the start of any race. Finishing any race. But especially, finishing my first ever marathon (totally teared up). Finishing a marathon pregnant with my first child. Finishing a half marathon under two and a half hours. Finishing the Goofy Race (half marathon one day, full marathon the next). Finishing a 10km on Mother's Day in support of Neonatal Intensive Care while listening to the songs that mattered when my son was critically ill (totally cried at that finish line). Finishing a half marathon while pregnant with my second child with only 18 seconds to spare. Finishing a 10km under an hour (this actually made me cry!!), and then doing it again two weeks later (no fluke there!!). Finishing a half marathon in under 2:05. And each of these moments was incredible, yet none nearly as amazing as being a torchbearer and actually carrying the Olympic Flame. Even as I type this I am teary eyed. I can't believe I was able to be part of something so big and so much more than any one person. I just remember looking at my torch, all lit up and being in complete awe of the whole experience. This is by far the best moment I have ever had in my running career. I don't know that it can be topped. I don't know that I would want to top this. I can't stop thinking about it. And it is just inspiring me to want to do more. To inspire others. To help people who want to be active but don't know where to begin.

For now, I will continue to relive this experience and allow it to keep me inspired and excited about what the future holds. And I will keep on listening to that Cold Play song, Fix You, "lights will guide you home and ignite your bones". The world hasn't seen the best of me yet. And I think this experience can only push me to better myself and inspire others.

Next up I'm gearing up for the Mother's Day run. This will be my fifth year doing it. I have done it ever since I became a mom, even though the first year, I shouldn't have been a mom yet. The money they raise always goes to help Neonatal Intensive Care. It is a very emotional race for me. And this year, Cindy and I are inspiring some other moms to do it with us. I'm so excited to watch these ladies stretch their limits and try something new.

What inspires you?

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