Her day was for sharing: Caroline's moment to shine
Watch Caroline's ride here.
I woke with a start at 3 am, scared in case I’d missed my 5.30 am alarm call. And then try as I might, I just couldn’t stop going over the logistics of the next day’s events, finally having a little prayer - I’m not actually sure I believe???- but thought it best ‘to hedge my bets’ that the following day I would carry the torch whilst cycling on my recumbent, finally falling asleep 10 mins before my alarm clock went off!!!! But no amount of forward planning could have predicted what would happen next...
Steve and Sue arrived - my brother and his wife - to whom I will be forever indebted! Although the day was about ‘ME’, I couldn’t have done it without the support, and kindness of lots of folk, let alone been chosen as a torch bearer in the first place.
The time was 7.50 am when we arrived at the pick-up point, which was to be a small school called Penine View, a quaint place that had obviously been preparing for this day for some time. There was a fantastic backdrop of the five Olympic rings made up of scrunched up tissue paper, which little fingers had obviously spent a long time doing.
If I can’t use my Trike, I ain’t doing it!”
I’m never going to be negative about yesterday BUT I had honestly spent two years telling and reminding them about my recumbent trike, along with CTC Cycling Development Officer Steve Marsden and Nigel West of the Wellbeing Consortium. So when they said they hadn’t been informed, and therefore I’d have to walk, my heart sank! I had a proper ‘Strop on’, stamping my right foot and saying: “If I can’t use my Trike, I ain’t doing it!”
This was quite effective because little grey tracksuits suddenly dashed about. Sarah, my mentor, was lovely and didn’t deserve the hard time I gave her, so sorry. She called someone and declared to everyone that “things were good” and to go ahead and fix the attachment to my trike. As soon as that was done I pedalled off. “Stop!!” yelled everyone, as I felt a kind of dragging feeling from the back tyre. Eeeek! It wasn’t the tyre - the entire wheel had come off!
With time running out, and no sign of a bike mechanic, my friends and my brother set about trying to repair the trike. I quickly phoned Steve Marsden, my hero, in the hope that he was there in Conisborough. Dawn answered - they were about 20 mins away she thought.
With a swoosh of a cape like some comic strip hero, Steve strutted across the schoolyard with my lovely friend Dave Brennan.
Time ticked on. Then, with a swoosh of a cape like some comic strip hero, Steve strutted across the schoolyard with my lovely friend Dave Brennan, who is also a cycle instructor at Hillsborough. Steve carefully tightened the bolts like he was performing some delicate life-saving operation because we really were up against the clock.
We turned the trike back onto its wheels but - DISASTER! The weight of the trike had bent the torch holder!!! Quickly, my friend Mike Danby, who’d arrived in Conisborough at 8.30 am on the early bus because he hadn’t wanted to miss anything, grabbed the torch holder and dashed into the school with the school technician. Together with vices and hammers they straightened the holder with just seconds to spare before I led a convoy out of the school to the Relay start point.
Music blasted out as the ‘party’ lorry passed. That was my cue, as, with the sun scorching down on me, and hundreds, maybe thousands, of people shouting “Caroline!!!”, I pedalled away. It was brilliant! I took both hands off the steering and just waved to all the fantastic crowds. I couldn’t believe that they had come out to see the torch and me. I mean, most didn’t even know me!!
I saw the folk from my mum’s nursing home - they had been up since 5.30am to get here. For a fleeting moment, I wished my parents were still here to see me but my mind raced on as I heard my children shouting. And then I saw Steve and Dawn near them. Someone shouted “Caroline!” so I looked round and saw Rhian from Altogether Better, and Nigel, Lisa and John were waving a banner saying “Go Caroline!!”. My mind was racing, I daren’t think what my heart was doing!!
And do you know ‘The Kiss’ - where my torch touches another bearer’s torch and the flame is transferred - that bits a bit of a blur. I think it’s because I didn’t want it to happen, I didn’t want the experience to end.
I was guided to the side of the road and the shuttle bus carrying the future torch bearers overtook and waved goodbye. L But I still had so many folk to meet and speak to - I love folk!!! J Especially the people of Conisborough: one confessed to not sleeping a wink last night because she was so excited about the torch. I let as many people who wanted to hold the torch, because they wouldn’t get the chance again. One boy said: “I’m never going to wash my hand now!!”, as his Mum tutted and smiled.
I saw Mark Parker, who came out from the brain injury team, to capture the moment and I’d still got my helmet on. J I’m thankful to my family, who let me stay being nice to people as long as they wanted me.
We then moved on to Endcliffe Park Café, where Ash, the café owner, had saved us three tables and took our orders. Yet more folk came: Cycle Chic, my old schoolfriend, Lawrence from Hillsborough. My children bounced on the bouncy castle, they had enjoyed themselves so much, arguing who was gonna hold the torch next!!
Endcliffe Park was where I had first ridden ‘Gretal’ the red trike three years ago when I had arranged to meet Steve Marsden there, following a visit to my house. Who would have thought what an absolutely fantastic cycling journey I would have??? And where does it end??
CTC Cycling Development Officer Steve Marsden adds his own thoughts about my momentous day:
June 26 and today was the day that Caroline was carrying the torch and I had had a message from her saying that she wasn't feeling very well. I had set off in plenty of time to get to Conisborough so I could meet up with her and make sure she was OK. On my way I got a message through that her back wheel had come loose while she was getting it out of her brother’s car! "They won't let me do it on my trike, I have to walk", she wailed!
I quickly got to the school she was starting from. The corporate Olympic supporters were buzzing around. She had bent the bracket that the flame was going to be fixed to when trying to fix the wheel.
The wheel was loose and as it’s an internal hub, the washers had been replaced on the wrong side. A quick removal of the nuts and I swapped the washers over, the wheel refitted and tightened, the Olympic torch bracket in place and off she goes! It was as smooth as a Formula One pit stop, corporate Olympic team and CTC working as one.
Caroline was ready to roll and off she went, the streets of Conisborough lined with people with bells, whistles and flags. The Olympic carnival had started, and Caroline was off! As she appeared with her police escort, all smiling and waving and people shouting and waving, I could feel a tear! That atmosphere was amazing and Caroline enjoyed every minute of it.
After 500m or so the Olympic torch was passed over, Caroline pulled over to the side and the flame continued its journey. She was then surrounded by well-wishers and people and children wanting a photo of themselves, the torch and Caroline.
One hour later she was still getting attention and even a school came out and every individual child had a picture with the torch! It showed what Caroline is all about: she is truly one of the people and is happy to share her moment with others.
She made me proud to be one of the people who have helped her achieve her goals in cycling.
Well done Caroline!