UK Sport blog: Debbie LyeSubscribe
Debbie Lye 04 July 2012
Arriving at Grantham Station, full of butterflies, I took a taxi to the Collection Point where the Torch Relay convoy was mustering. The driver was worried about road closures and went on to say that none of the Grantham runners were locals, but he’d heard there was a 58-year-old woman from Surbiton in Surrey among them. “Err, that’s me,” I confessed.
At the Collection Point I picked up my uniform and met my seven fellow torchbearers and gave all my worldly goods to my son to look after – it’s a bit like getting ready for an operation. The other torchbearers all had personal stories of courage, generosity and dedication and as we waited for the convoy to set off it was moving to listen to each one of them share their achievements. One of the youngest runners, Luke aged 12, has been through a harrowing series of operations for facial burns and eye damage, despite which he’s been spotted as a talented young footballer, while Tam with a smile a mile wide, is running miles and organising road races all over the country to raise £290,000 for MacMillan Nurses. Simon and his partner do voluntary work with AIDS orphans in Northern Uganda and it was great to be able to talk to him about International Inspiration activities in the same region.
As the heavens opened, thunder raged around us and hailstones the size of golf balls battered the roof of the minibus, I had a scary vision of myself soaked to the skin, pelted with hailstones and possibly even struck by lightning, but at my start point outside Grantham District Hospital with that beautiful torch in my hand the sun came out and the worries evaporated. The crowds lining the streets were full of warmth, excitement and friendliness. They all, of course, wanted to be photographed with the Torch, but I had been told not to let go of it so they had to have me in their pictures too! Lots of nurses were there and scores of children and families, even dogs were snapped next to the Torch!
The convoy arrived and I performed the ‘Kiss’ (touching the torches to hand over the flame) with Luke. Then I just had to go for it. The torch team told us to wave, smile and communicate with the crowd throughout and that is what I tried to do. It was indescribably surreal, wonderful and weird. A sea of faces, flags and funny costumes lined the road and yet I couldn’t spot my own son and daughter in the throng. I suddenly noticed Nick Fuller, a close colleague from LOCOG and International Inspirational Foundation Trustee, in the Media van ahead of me, grinning away whilst I tried to avoid setting fire to my hair and remember to smile and wave constantly to the huge crowds gathered along the relay route.
Then I reached Darren, the next Torchbearer, and we ‘Kissed’. The torch team turned off the gas and it was back onto the bus with the other Torchbearers, bringing my run in the journey to an end.
Later I caught up with family and friends in the very friendly Nobody Inn. There was a festival atmosphere and everyone wanted to hold the torch. The meaning of the Olympic spirit is well and truly ignited in Grantham now! Someone offered £5 towards my charity project, International Inspiration, in return for a photograph, and that set a pattern of people pressing coins and notes into my hand.
So, in a nice twist, the 58 year old woman from Surrey gratefully received a precise £58 to put towards International Inspiration from the warm and generous locals of Grantham, taking away with at least 58,000 amazing memories in return.
I would like to thank the International Inspiration Foundation Board for my nomination as well as everybody who has helped in getting the programme to where it is today.