What a fantastic experience – and a bit surreal!

Mark Williamson

Mark Williamson carried the Torch in Powick

Mark Williamson, Monmouth - carried the torch in Powick

I was nominated by an ex-work colleague and by an inspiring charity, Macmillan Cancer Support, to take part in the Torch Relay. I’ve raised £980,000 for charities over the years and I’d really like to make it a million. I’ve raised the money, with support from many others, for the Association of Childrens’ Hospices, MacMillian Cancer Support, Meningitis Trust and Muscular Dystrophy, mainly by running marathons all over the world.

I found out back in December that I’d been successful and realised I’d be on holiday in Spain. I had to fly back early, the night before taking part and drove up to Worcester and found out I was going to be in the Relay in Powick and we were to meet at the Worcester Cricket Ground at 06.15. Not running through Monmouth, where I live, I became a bit concerned that people would think “Who’s he?” I needn’t have worried. What a welcome! Everyone was really friendly from the moment I arrived at the meeting point and there was already a fantastic atmosphere in and around the cricket ground (I’d already seen some of what to expect while watching coverage on TV in Spain).

One of the highlights was meeting the other Torchbearers taking part in the first leg of the morning (Worcester to Malvern). It was a real cross-section, people of all ages from 15 to pension plus including a young lad in a wheelchair (who did voluntary work at a hospital), a gymnastics coach (who worked voluntarily 45 hours a week!), a musician whose band would be playing at the celebration in Cardiff later that day, a football coach, a banker, a young girl recovering from a car accident and coma who was winning medals in javelin and discus, and … Darren Campbell, the Olympic gold medallist!

The person doing the leg before me couldn’t take part so the team dropped a last-minute bombshell and asked if I’d do two legs, “No problem, that just made my day!” Then I found that I’d be lighting my torch from Mother Flame and re-lighting her on the way out, using tapers, so sadly no ‘Kisses’ with other Torchbearers – Mother Flame ‘Kissed’ me and I ‘Kissed’ her back!  The crowds were incredible, noisy and enthusiastic. My partner and some other friends were there to support me and the atmosphere was tremendous.

The day didn’t end after the Relay. I had been contacted by Malvern Council and asked if I could drop in on an Olympic Day at Powick Primary School. There were five other schools there too, all taking part in a mini Olympics covering 16 events in their grounds and across the village playing fields– and I was their guest of honour! Another fantastic experience was seeing the joy in their faces. People took hundreds of pictures and I felt like a real celebrity (the teachers and helpers were even more enthusiastic than the children about being pictured with “the Torch”). It really helped to make the day special and what an end to such a truly unique and wonderful experience!