Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Part of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay...

Wow!! Where to begin. Yesterday I had one of the best moments of my life. Yesterday I was part of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay. Yesterday I was part of something so much bigger than myself. It was amazing. It was fantastic. It was awesome. I am still smiling. And I still can't believe I got to participate.

It started a long time ago though. I remember back in 1988 when the Olympics were coming to Calgary and the torch was travelling across Canada. I remember when the torch went through Medicine Hat and I thought it was one of the neatest things ever. I also remember my uncle had the opportunity to be a torch bearer as well. I thought it was so incredible. I wished I could be a torch bearer. Fast forward a few years and the Olympics were coming back to Canada. I knew there would be a torch relay again and I wondered what it would take to be part of it. I remember telling my husband that I wanted to be a torchbearer. I remember when they announced that you would have to apply either through Coke or RBC. I did both. With Coke, I entered and then had the opportunity to prepare an essay. I wrote an essay about my commitment to active living and inspiring others to do the same while setting an example for my kids. With RBC I wrote about my efforts at volunteering and raising funds for various causes. Ultimately though, it was Coke who chose me. I remember getting the email and being more excited than ever. It was a neat email with the Open Happiness song playing (which, ironically has been in my head since I ran yesterday!!). I was dancing around the house. Jeremy thought I was crazy. I just couldn't believe that I actually got picked!! But, I guess promising to lead an active life, setting an example for my boys and inspiring others was good enough. And, I spent the whole of 2009 living up to that promise!!

A few weeks later, the paperwork came, and I sent everything off, by priority post of course, so that I could check online that it was actually delivered. Then, in December, I got an email with my assignment. I would be carrying the torch on Day 88 in a small town called Oliver, BC. It wasn't my hometown or the town I was living in, but it was in beautiful BC wine country. A bit later in December a box arrived. The box contained my uniform, complete with red mittens. Suddenly, it was actually feeling real!! About a week before, I got another email reminding me about how I was special and chosen by a committee and all this sort of thing.

In January, we booked tickets and were flying out with my mom and brother. It meant a lot that people in my life wanted to share in this moment. I packed up my torch bearer uniform into my carry on so there was no chance it would get lost!!

On Sunday evening, we spent the night in Osoyoos. It was great. There were fireworks in honour of the torch having arrived there. The next morning, we got up early and left for our short twenty minute drive to the Jackson Triggs Winery. We left just after 7:30 giving us lots of time to get there. Unfortunately, we were behind the torch. And the torch moves slow. It was getting later and later, and pretty soon it was becoming obvious that we might not make it. I was nearly in tears. I was watching my Olympic moment just slip away. I put a call in to the Torchbearer Centre to let them know we were on the way but stuck behind the torch. The lady I talked to said she'd let the people know and took my phone number. There I was, sitting in my torchbearer uniform, seeing the torch, and knowing I had to get around it, or my torch dream would be out the window!! Luckily the torch finally took a break and we got around. I arrived at the winery just about five minutes late.

Of course then, I can't find my license and went to get my passport because if you don't have ID, you don't run. Luckily though, I found my license (it fell on the ground outside of the car). So, left the passport with Jeremy and was rushed inside. They were giving out stickers of your torch number. I would be number 079. The 79th person to carry the torch on day 88. I met the mother of the guy who would hand off to me and was told I was handing off to the famous guy (didn't recognize him... oops!!).

Next up, we were given some facts. Over 1 million Canadians applied to be torch bearers. 12000 were chosen. Suddenly the fact that I was chosen seemed special. As well as the fact that I knew two other people who had also been chosen!! They showed us the torch, talked about how it symbolized the different lands that made up our country, and some of the sports in the games. They showed us the way to carry it, and how the flames came out both sides and surrounded a little maple leaf on the back, making a flag. They told us that the torches were all assembled by hand by only six individuals. They were all signed and dated inside. They showed us the inside and how it worked. They talked about how the Olympic flame was kept inside a lantern for travelling and then lit up the torch that was being run. They reminded us how when we were running our segment, we would be the only person in the world carrying the Olympic flame at that moment. After you hand off the flame to the next torch bearer, they shut off your torch pretty quick because again, only one person is carrying it at a time.

We got to hear all sorts of stories of different torchbearers as well as the stories of the people in our group. It was amazing. Everyone had their own reason for applying and for being chosen. It was really neat to be among so many different people. We chatted with the torchbearers in our group and planned our handoffs. They encouraged us to be more creative than a simple high five since it was day 88 and they had seen many thousands of those already.

And then it was time to board our bus. We got on the bus and watched the Cold Play video and some footage from earlier days in the relay. It was so incredibly inspiring. Our hostess, Nathalie, shared various stories from around the country. It was so interesting. The Olympic Torch Relay is all about coming together and peace. And as we watched these clips and heard these stories, I felt such honour that I was to be a part of it.

Then, our bus started dropping people off. We cheered as each torchbearer was dropped with their family and friends. And as we got closer and closer to my stop, I started getting really nervous. My heart was racing and I hadn't been so excited and nervous for something in who knows how long!! Finally it was my turn. I saw my little guys waiting and tears welled in my eyes. Suddenly, it really was happening. I was going to have my moment. I got off and visited with my husband, two little boys, mom and brother.

We chatted, I showed off the torch, took a few pictures and then along came the cyclist to give me my instructions.

Next up the RBC truck passed with their cheering section, and soon after was the Coke truck. Three different Coke people came and gave me a hug and congratulated me. Now, I don't know if they knew I was chosen by Coke or not, but it sure felt nice to get their congrats.

Before I knew it, I was standing in the middle of the road watching the previous runner approach me. Our torches met, and suddenly I was the runner. We did our secret handshake and off I went.

This was it. All those months of waiting and now, there I was, running with the Olympic Flame, in the beautiful interior of BC.

I was beaming on the inside. It's hard to contain that much happiness!!

I had an escort and it almost felt like the secret service was running with me. I chatted with the guy for a moment about what a cool job he had, running with the torchbearers. And then, I saw the guy I was to hand off to, Jay Ingram, who is on Daily Planet on the Discovery Channel. I met with him, lit his torch, then we spun around and off he went.

Moments later my torch was turned off and I was back on a bus. It was fun to be with these torchbearers again and relieve what we had just experienced. We had the chance to write a note in a book with our thoughts on the experience. And soon, we were back at the winery for a short celebration.

I have to extend a huge thanks to my mom because she actually bought my torch for me (I will pay you back, I promise!!). I had figured I didn't really need it, yet after doing this, it was something special that I really did want to take home with me, and on that day, didn't quite have the ability to do so. So, I am forever grateful.

And thank you mom, and Chris for coming out and sharing this experience. It really was special to have you there for one of the coolest moments of my whole life!!

Thank you Peter, for coming out as well!!

And thank you Jeremy for coming and bringing our boys. Thanks for humouring me when I applied to be a torchbearer and supporting me when I actually got picked.

And thank you Coke for choosing me. I will continue to try and be active and inspire those around me. (oh, and I always did like Coke way more than Pepsi, haha)

I am also truly grateful to my friends and family that tuned in to the live feed and sent emails and facebook messages of encouragement. It was so wonderful to hear from so many different people.

This was, by far, one of the neatest things I have ever done in my life. I've run all sorts of races, travelled to all sorts of places, but nothing compares to running with the Olympic Flame in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay. I will likely never get to participate in the Olympics, so this was a way that I could be a part of the Olympics and what they represent. It was my moment, and I will treasure it, forever.


Cindy said...

Well said! I love the pictures!!!! You did great!

Claudia said...

Oh Sharon what a great story, great photos and great moment!! I can see the happiness in your eyes; it was such a special moment and one you will treasure forever. I was nearly in tears reading your story! When the Olympics come to London I’ll apply to be a torchbearer if I can, after your inspiring story – congratulations! At the very least I will think of you when I see the Olympic flame in future and think of the moment when you were the only one in the world carrying it. How amazing.

Tera said...

I can only imagine how such a true honor that was! I'm sure your essay stuck out from the million that applied. You write with such emotion and detail, I almost felt like i was there with you reading this post. (and almost made me cry a little) So inspring, you deserved this so much, you do so much for everyone else! So amazing! Cherish the memory forever!

Debbie H-J said...

what a wonderful memory for you. I hadn't really paid attention to the torch relay until I watched you on Tuesday. It was so neat watching everyone and especially you. It was very evident how excited you were.

Anonymous said...

I am so very very jealous. What a wonderful experience and obviously something you will never forget. You looked so great and really fit too. :-)

Anonymous said...

You'll have to have a torch viewing party so we can all come and check out the torch. (Any excuse to make a cake, right?)

Anonymous said...

Hi Sharon, what a great experience!
I´m happy for you! This is so special.And your family was with you
and the boys saw their mom running
with the torch! Really good!
Have a good time Christl.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Sharon!!! Wow - what an unbelievable experience!! ! Thank you for sharing it in such detail that we all could live vicariously through you - I am tingling with excitement as if I was there!! You are truly a 'neat' person and I am so glad that we met as neighbors and are getting to know each other as friends.

Rosalind (Rose)

WendyBruce said...

Hey Sharon! There were tears in my eyes as I read about your special day. I'm so glad that you had this once in a lifetime experience, and that we all got to share it with you. Thanks for writing about it.