(Kingston, Ontario, Canada)
The 2018 Winter Olympics are now underway. This has reminded me of one of my greatest travel experiences ever: carrying the Olympic flame through the town of Morrisburg, as part of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics torch relay.
It was a tremendous honour to be selected as a torchbearer for the 2010 Winter Olympics. I wasn’t at all bothered that I was assigned to run a segment in Morrisburg, located about 140 km east of my hometown of Kingston, Ontario. This would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity…I would have travelled anywhere to make it happen!
There were four of us carrying the flame through Morrisburg on that gray overcast day in December of 2009. They told us to savour the moment and not run too quickly. I settled on a slow jog…I wanted to RUN with the flame, but I also wanted the moment to last.
It all happened so fast. Before I knew it, the Olympic flame was approaching. With a roaring crowd, the flame was passed to me and I high-fived the previous runner. If you’ve ever doubted the inspirational power of a noisy crowd, try running with the Olympic flame. There is no effort required: you just float!
I tried to slow my pace, but it was very difficult. I remember waving at everybody and having a giant grin on my face for the few minutes that I had the flame.
It was over so quickly. I didn’t do any special training for the run (just my usual hockey and curling) but it turned out to be totally unnecessary. The adrenaline jolt was immense and I could have run forever. I high-fived the next torchbearer after passing on the flame and my grin remained in place for days afterwards.
That night, the last stop of the Olympic relay was in Kingston and I attended the associated festivities in the market square. As I wore my baggy and desperately unfashionable torchbearer uniform, I became a temporary celebrity and appeared in what felt like thousands of pictures with complete strangers. I met a 1956 Olympian but also many others who were thrilled just to say hello to somebody who had briefly carried the flame.
While I slept reasonably well the night before, I couldn’t sleep at all after running with the flame. In fact, I don’t think I slept more than three hours per night for about the next week. Yes, it was that much of a buzz!
This proved that you don’t need to travel far to have an unforgettable experience. And “experience” is the key word: travel is so much better when you are “doing” rather than just “seeing”. Even though it is only 90 minutes away, I can honestly say that Morrisburg will always be one of my favourite travel destinations!
Next stop: Switzerland!
[Many thanks to my wife and my former colleagues at Empire Life, who took the photos in today’s post]