You might be surprised how often that Black Eyed Peas song ‘I Gotta Feeling’ is still played. I am. At the Turkey Trot 10k on Monday it was being played as we went through the start line. And they played it at the start line at the 2009 Turkey Trot 10k as well. I’ve got it on a running mix on my iPod and it seems to come up quite regularly. Most people are probably sick of it but I love hearing it. It reminds of running in the 2010 Olympic Torch Relay.
My path to being a torchbearer was via the Coca-Cola website. It was a long process and fairly anti-climactic when they finally emailed me saying I was going to run. The preceding months had been a series of emails about qualifying, writing a story about why I should be chosen, having the website fritz out on me so I had to wait days to actually submit and then not hearing back from them by the deadline they listed. When it was finally confirmed I was stoked but not shouting it from rooftops. I was also six months pregnant and we were selling our condo so I had a lot on my mind.
My run leg was January 27th, 6:25pm in Kamloops a few hours drive from Vancouver. Henry was about three months old at that point and the last few months had dragged/flown by with a few jolts of, hey, I’m running in the torch relay, followed by endless nights and nursing sessions. The day of the run Chris and I packed Henry into my sister Katy’s car and we drove up to Kamloops for the big event.
Yeah, the excitement was building but, honestly, I felt a bit jaded. A bit too in the know. A bit too Olympicized. I had been working in the Olympic world for a sponsor, had seen PowerPoints on the torch relay, the vehicle convoys, how the torchbearer experience would play out.
And if you know me chances are pretty good you were a torchbearer too. I have a lot of Olympian friends and a lot that work in that world. Many of them were allocated spots. Many had already run and I had seen photos on Facebook, read gushing status updates and even watched live via webcam as one of my friends ran in Alberta. It was great and I was very proud and honoured to run but I thought I had missed the boat on the fresh genuine excitement for it.
The meeting spot for me was a stadium complex in Kamloops that, funny enough, I had spoken at about a year before for an event. And, funny enough, when I introduced myself to the man, John, I would be passing the flame too, he remembered me from that event. Small world, right? I asked him how he came to be a torchbearer and it was a really sweet story. His kids had nominated him without him knowing. He was really pumped. So were the other 20 or so torchbearers in the room.
Before heading out on the shuttle to our drop points our chaperones talked to us about the torch relay, its significance, some cool facts and a few cute stories. A lot of it I had heard before but I started to get that pre-race feeling of nerves. A bit jittery. Here it was, I was going to run in the torch relay.
It was dark out and I was running in a residential area that was pretty quiet. On the drive over they played the little torch relay video set to Coldplay’s Lights Will Guide You. I had seen this video a few dozen times from work events. The first few times got me pretty choked up but then I cruised through it. Not this day. I was doing a lot of blinking and touching the corners of my eyes and at some points even looked out the window to avoid getting completely overwhelmed by it.
We had about fifteen minutes to kill waiting in the shuttle bus before we all started getting dropped off. Our chaperone told us a few inspiring stories about others that had run in the relay, why they were nominated, obstacles people had overcome just to get to their run spot. She asked our group if anyone would like to share their story and a few people did. Cancer survivors, volunteers that had been nominated by the people they help. I was feeling very proud to be included in this group of great Canadians.
And then they played Black Eyed Peas ‘I Gotta Feeling’ and everyone in the little bus started cheering and screaming like we were a high school football team. It was spectacular.
They dropped me at my run spot and my family was waiting there for me. My sister-in-law had taken my niece and nephew out of school for the afternoon to drive up. It was all starting to feel pretty real and I was regretting telling my mom not to bother coming up for it. Lots of photos were taken of me with my unlit torch and various family members. Some locals came out of their homes and got in on the picture taking too.
And then I ran with the Olympic flame. And it was magical.
Totally serious on this. I am usually fairly conservative about things. Need at least three glasses of wine to attempt to dance in public. But I quickly lost myself in the moment. I was running down the street with my lit torch, the entourage of police and security around me, and I was screaming, “wahoo!” and kind of jumping/skipping. I heard my name yelled over my shoulder and there was Chris, running in the street taking pictures and my niece was right there with him.
When I came up to John, the next runner, he had a huge group of people there. I slowed down and actually did the arms lift up signal to them all to get louder (I know, who am I?). John and I were kind of yelling and screaming as we passed the flame and then we hugged. He took off to more cheering and I waited for the pick up shuttle.
Running with the Olympic flame was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.
Torchbearers have the option to buy their torch for $250 and I opted in. In the weeks leading up to the Games and during I brought it out a few times for family and friends to look at. And then I packed it and my running suit away.
Since then I have thought of the experience often and told the story to people. It’s fun to look through the photos and relive it. But I haven’t once taken the torch out to get that magic feeling back. I find hearing that Black Eyed Peas song, or seeing some snippit about the Olympics in the news brings back the memories just fine.
I am thinking about selling my Olympic torch. The uniform too. The memories are the best part and I feel certain that the torch will languish sadly in our storage closet.
What’s holding me back? Mostly what other people will think. Which is a ridiculous reason. I also wonder if it is worth it to hold onto for my son. But what will he do with it? Take it for show and tell in fifth grade and then sell it on eBay when he is in university and needs some extra cash.
I’ve created a poll for you, my fine readers, so you can indicate your preference. It will be up for a week so let me know your thoughts.