Alex Hains is a Welsh international middle distance athlete on Welsh Athletics Commonwealth Support Programme and hopes to qualify for the 2014 Games in Glasgow.
Arriving in Aberystwyth after a 12 mile run, a 3.5 hour drive from Loughborough, very little food, and a relenting sun through my windscreen, I found my mood had sunk as low as my petrol gauge. But what followed did everything to cheer me up and more.
Welsh Athletics invited me to attend, as the leading Welsh 10km runner on the Commonwealth Support Program, the festivities that surrounded the passing of the torch through Aberystwyth and I gratefully accepted. Aberystwyth really embraced the arrival of the torch as an opportunity to bring the community together and try and inspire kids and adults alike to find out what the Games embodies, as well as offer the opportunity to try out a few Olympic events (which is where I came in). I should also add that they offered burgers, beer, bouncy castles, cheerleaders and women on horseback in daffodil helmets – but obviously I was only interested in the real sports!
I spent the day with Welsh Athletics helping to encourage kids from 3 to15yrs to try a few events such as sprints, standing long jump and mini shot put. I was also, slightly embarrassingly, asked to sign some pictures of me running to help encourage the kids to aspire to continue the sport once they left. As the day developed I found this process was not only (hopefully) inspiring kids but also doing a great deal to reignite the fire in me after recent disappointments. The enthusiasm the kids showed towards the events as well towards Adam (Adam Bitchell, the top 5km welsh runner, and local lad) and me was certainly worth the journey and helped remind me why I have personally continued in the sport from a youngster doing school competitions to a Welsh international on the cusp of commonwealth selection.
And although I didn’t get to see the torch (it passed by later that evening), I got to see the excitement the Olympics has brought to our country. I hope it has a lasting legacy, although I know that is a tall order, but it will certainly inspire and excite the population for the short weeks it sparkles. I, for one, cannot wait. Not only will I get to see an Olympic Games, the greatest show on earth, on home soil (I am lucky enough to have some tickets) but I will also get to watch my own girlfriend, who I have helped to coach and encourage (and pace) for several years, in the Marathon running for her home country of Ireland. If Aberystwyth got the embers burning again, I am sure that will truly set them alight!