Sunday, 8 July 2012

The Kiss Seen Around The World

The Olympic torch relay on 20 June was just fantastic. I started the day early at 7.40am with an interview with the BBC Radio Cumbria breakfast show. The presenter, Ian Timms, enthusiastically told me that I’d be the first Cumbrian to carry the torch. Although the torch entered Cumbria in Brough, before it reached my stage in Appleby, Ian explained that both of the Brough torchbearers would be from County Durham. As it turned out, I was on the relay bus as the procession made its way through Brough and the reception from the crowd was amazing, County Durham torchbearers or not.

Monty can barely contain his excitement.
As soon as I’d finished on the radio, I was out into the garden to help put up the bunting for the garden party Jay had kindly organised to celebrate torch day. Fortunately, it was a bright, sunny day. Given that we’ve had a record-breakingly bad summer, getting a good day was a real stroke of luck. I’d have been particularly miffed if we’d had to cancel, given that I’ve spent the last 6 months painting fences, sheds and garden furniture, digging, weeding and planting. No mean feat, given that I hate gardening at the best of times. Jay had been baking like an electric Nan for days and it turned into such a quintessentially English party: Battenberg cake (German), Viennese Whirls (Austrian), and lashings of the best ginger beer (Jamaican) since 1932, when Mrs Donoghue bought a bottle of Mr Stevenson’s finest. That’s one for the lawyers amongst you. The rest of you will have to bear with us. We don’t get out much.

Erica keeps a close eye on the Union Jack sponge cake
Between radio interviews, garden parties and dinosaur hunting with my nephews, I had a to-do list longer than a Leonard Cohen song, and there was barely enough time to get to the business of the day, carrying the Olympic torch. By the time I arrived in Appleby, there was already a large crowd and the atmosphere was building.

Right of the photo: the average age of my fanbase has increased dramatically

Like the fourth Bee Gee

While waiting for the torch to arrive, my friends and family were interviewed by a reporter from the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald. Everything was going well until he looked at my Mum and Dad and asked “Who has Duncan got here to support him? His grandparents?”. I wish I’d been there to see my Mum’s face! As it turned out, my laughter was to be short-lived. Later that evening, in my village’s pub, an Australian lady asked Jay if she wouldn’t mind taking a photo of me and her with the torch: “Would you take a photo of me and your Dad?”. Jay must look youthful because there’s no way that I look old. Ahem. Unfortunately, the photographic evidence doesn’t corroborate that point of view. Check out the photos below, taken 22 years apart, in 1990 and 2012. My Pennine Way team, Marc and Simon, came to Appleby and we took the opportunity to recreate our team photo from all of those years ago. It’s not the years, it’s the miles on the clock.

2012 team photo

1990 team photo

My moment carrying the torch lasted only a matter of minutes, but it's a memory I'll treasure always. There won't be many days when your run will be escorted by five coaches, six police motorcycles and six metropolitan police officers. Colleagues in Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and Deeside, and friends and family all over the world, downed tools to watch the BBC tv coverage. That explains the countless text messages I received, asking me the identity of the girl who broke through the police cordon to kiss me, after I'd handed over the flame to the next runner. Have a look at the screen still, below. No prizes for guessing who! 

Next stop is the Philadelphia Marathon on 18 November and I can’t wait! My torch, on the other hand, is on its own tour across the country, having barely spent a night with me since I brought it home. Shap, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle... Check out the tour album, with just a fraction of the honorary torchbearers:
The most poignant photo has to be the Macmillan nurses at Aintree Hospital, who are looking after Jayne's Mum following her recent cancer surgery. As Rob Ainscough reminded us back in February 2009 (, just before the first of the fivemarathons, this is why we run. This is why Amanda, and Lucy, and Libby, and Melanie, and Katie, and Harriet, and Helen, and Lisa, and Jo, and Philippa ran: to raise money for the cancer care that we rely on so much when our loved ones need it the most. In my case, that fundraising was why I was nominated to carry the torch in the first place, and here it is, back with the ladies we run to support. As Rob put it, support them generously please, for your Moll.

NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004