Lit in Greece, the Olympic flame arrived in the UK on the 18th May before setting off for its 70 day Olympic Torch Relay. 8000 individuals were selected and nominated to carry the flame through over 1000 different UK based cities, towns and villages, taking it within mere miles of the entire UK population.
A few months ago, having submitted a detailed account of how I went on a life changing journey from fat to thin, the challenges it held, the inspiration it provided and how I have gone on to help others, I was notified that I had been selected out of thousands of people to run with the flame on the St Albans leg of the event.
Many people have asked me just what it was like, so today I thought I would share my account.
The Day Itself
I don’t think that there is any other word that better describes the day’s events other than – WOW (and I hate that word, just for the record). The main event was of course brilliant. Having been interviewed by the Bucks Free Press a few days ago my quote that I gave them still holds true for me:
‘Just a few years ago I couldn’t have completed 100m of walking, today I have run 350m with a flame in the hand and gas in the tank. Honestly it was the best Sports Day of my entire life.’
As weird as it sounds however that is as much as I am going to detail about the actual event.
I actually wanted to share with as many people as possible the lessons I learned, the things I noticed and the things I took away from the experience, as to me this is what made the day a truly ‘Wow-like’ experience.
The torchbearer uniform has just 1 internal pocket that would hold a driving license for identification and nothing else. When I entered the ‘quarantine room’ at the University of Hertfordshire for once in probably the last 10 years the first thing I noticed was the silence.
In the quarantine room there were no TV’s in the room, no mobile phones and only one iPad that belonged to the event organiser. All that remained were the people, a water cooler and their unique and inspirational stories.
This was the first thing that struck me. We live in a day and age where we are glued to our electrical devices so we can keep and touch and communicate, but take these ‘comfort blankets’ away and actually many of us struggle to do the very thing we use them to do – Communicate. I always remember the quote from ‘Peep Show’ where the lead character Mark has been stood up on a date. ‘You can never be lonely with a phone’ – How true is that?
After half hour though people began edging in with the usual British conversation starters on fine topics such as the weather, the state of the economy and the event itself. I have to say that even for me who spends each and every day with people from all different walks of life, the whole ‘native’ process of communication without such electrical comforts was foreign and to put it mildly…uncomfortable.
Lesson One – Turn off your computers, iPads, Phones when you are in the company of others. Not just the people you love, but anybody. Get used to communicating again, it will make such an impact on your day and the lives of others.
2. The Respect
I was always told at school that the reason we wore uniform was to signify and promote the idea of unity and togetherness….as well as to stop bullying. In honesty team work has never really been my thing and I do like to work and occasionally live just me, myself, and I.
Even in my school days I used to find little ways of individualising myself so I wasn’t just like ‘one of the others.’ (I have a horrible recollection of adorning 40 black rubber bands on each wrist at one point just for the unique factor – we live and we learn, we live and we learn).
However in this instance I appreciated the uniform. Perhaps with a few more years under my belt I finally was able to see some significance.
The event wasn’t about me, myself and I. It was about good deeds, great stories and a sense of community.
The torchbearer uniform in my mind was a representation of happiness, willingness and courage and I loved that element. Everyone wore the same uniform and everybody was on level ground. There were no judgements and there were no assumptions, so when people shared their accounts and stories the whole room listened and ultimately respected the person sharing the story.
Lesson 2 - It is human nature for us to make judgements and assumptions on people we meet. Many of us are too quick to jump the gun (myself included). At the end of the day the world would probably be a better place if we did think of everyone as a member of the human community for once. We as creatures don’t all need to wear a specific uniform each day, but we need to look beyond what is immediately visible on the surface. Talent, caring, intelligence and many other traits in which we strive are not always immediately in front of us.
3. The Passion
In the little book of Scott’s wisdom I think that the key to happiness and success is passion. If you don’t have passion for what you do you’ll never make it very far.
I was all set for a career in IT and even IT Sales of all things just a number of years ago. I had signed the dotted line and everything. Of course the passion wasn’t there. From experience working in the industry I was unhappy and ultimately underperformed in jobs of this nature.
What I loved most among the other things in the quarantine room was the passion, the happiness and the love that every person in that room had. Not for each other, but for the reasons they were there. There were some great stories in my room from soldiers in Afganistan recovering from double amputation, the captain of the GB Paralympics Basketball team, those that had worked with kids with disability, those who had set up youth projects and many others. In fairness I felt my story a little weak at this stage.
But then I thought about it…Sure these people had all done great things, but it wasn’t so much the things they had done that they were getting recognised for. It was having that inner flame, that passion, that love to get up every day and do what they did. Passion is lacking in so many, just look at Facebook on any Sunday night:
‘Oh god work tomorrow’
‘Only another 5 days till next weekend’
I personally hate such updates. Living for the weekends in my mind is not living at all!
I have been lucky enough to follow my passion where no day feels like a chore, no day is a struggle and my aim is to do what I do every day well. It is only recently that I have realised this may in fact be rare.
Lesson 3 – Follow your passion, love what you do and happiness will come. And when it does….celebrate it.
4. The Support
The torchbearers were in quarantine for a few hours before they boarded the shuttle bus so of course there was time to share stories, discuss life and the event itself.
Once on board we were advised by LOCOG officials that one by one we would be dumped into the crowds with our torches. (‘Keep two hands on them at all times and don’t let go’ – was the exact instruction).
Slowly the bus began arriving towards the crowds which even on the outskirts looked terrifying. The first number was called and the doors were opened. But then it happened:
Altogether without even being summoned – cheering, wooping, shouting of the persons name – and dare I say it even SMILING (Do people still do this simple act?)
Where did that come from I thought…
But it happened for the next person and the next person and even little old me.
What did it feel like?
1 word – EMPOWERING
There is not a better feeling in the world than a group of people cheering you on. It doesn’t matter who those people are or how big that group is, it may only be a single person. The feeling of empowerment and invincibility it gives is nothing short of amazing. I honestly felt I could take on the world.
Lesson 4 – Although we should not strive for praise all the time, it is important to try and surround ourselves with positive people that will help you get the most out of your experiences. Have the respect to show the same to others when they achieve great things. Dax Moy had a great quote today which I saw which stated, ‘do not make yourself bigger, by making others smaller’ – I loved that.
5. The Memories
This was something that really hit home for me. Dare I say it; it actually even drew a tear whilst I was on the bus. This was strange because for those that know me, I have the emotional capacity of a granite rock.
The day itself was a memory being made, which was actually based on a memory made in the past.
You see the reason I was there was because I had overcome something that a lot of people have failed at. I took the negativity of being overweight, the confidence it sapped from me and how bad it made me feel and turned it around 360.
Not all memories are great. If you have nothing but great memories then in my opinion you are either a very lucky person or living in a severe state of denial.
Memory is a powerful tool however. Past memories teach us lessons and a life without lessons would ultikately leave life’s little cup in a permanent state of half empty. It is the things we learn, the ways we adapt and the things that we achieve based on past memories that matter – not the memory itself.
We will all go through times of darkness and times when we are in the light. It is how we get through these times that create those new memories which in turn act as springboards to our next step on our journey that matter most.
Many people in the press have mocked the idea of the ‘Torch Kiss’ as the flame passes from one bearer to the other.
This to me was the biggest part of significance and great lesson to end on. You see, I thought of the flame as life, as energy, as chi – whatever you wish to refer to it as.
Keep that flame locked in a lantern in Greece and it has little significance to anybody, it changes nothing. Pass it through the streets, with hands held high, inspiring and guiding the way ahead for others and that is where it makes its mark…where change happens.
Life should be dynamic and forward moving!
Lesson 5 – Love yourself, celebrate yourself and believe that you can make a difference in whatever aspect of your life you choose. You have the control and the power to do this. Live your passion, share your passion and inspire others to do the same.
To end this article today I thought I would on the final things I noticed from the day:
- The torch travels in one direction – Forwards
- The flame is passed on, it doesn’t remain still nor with one person – Bad things happen, this doesn’t mean you should live in a state of inertia forever.
- The flame changes direction in the wind – Life has no set path. Fate is what we make.
- The flame brings out the best in human nature – There is a best in human nature
Personal Trainer High Wycombe