My Olympic Torch Ride

It is already dark out and fairly calm. There is little traffic on the highway. My wife and two children are with me as are two friends. A handful of people who live near by are also here chatting quietly among themselves as are two support crew members. I am leaning against an unfamiliar bicycle anxiously awaiting the start of my ride.

The road curves and rises towards us so we are unable to tell how far away the entourage is. A few vehicles from it pass us and we can see its lights reflecting off of a hill. The relay caravan comes in view just a few hundred yards from us and it seems to arrive very suddenly.

Just a minute ago it was quiet and calm. I could hear the crickets. Now there is much activity. I am surrounded by motorcycles and cars, and there are a number of people watching. In front of me is Lisa, the torch bearer who is passing me the flame.

I hold my torch up and Lisa lights it with hers. The flame is brighter than I expected. I struggle with what to say to the person that just gave me the Olympic flame. She hugs me and wishes me good luck. I put the torch on the bicycle and wait a moment for the torch to warm up - for the ride to start. I look at all the people, my wife and children. I can't wipe the smile from my face.

The truck in front of me starts going. I start pedaling. I put the bike in a big gear and wind the pedals up. The relay is behind schedule and I was told I can ride as fast as I want. I ride as fast as I can. I pass a number of people cheering and waving the American flag. I can see very little past the shoulder of the road.

Riding in the dark feels like a dream. My mind drifts through great memories I have had racing bicycles, like my first victory and winning the 1990 Arizona State Road Championship. I think of how cycling has blessed my life and the many friendships I have made while pedaling. I think of how my legs are burning. I think of how I met my wife cycling.

I was told my ride would be cut short because the relay is behind schedule. I am stopped after about four of the fourteen miles I am scheduled for. I am barely off the bike when a lantern is lit from my torch and carried away by motorcycle. I get a number of congratulations and comments on how fast I rode. My lungs feel the effort; I am having a fit of coughing. The whole caravan disappears down the road. All that is left is me, two relay workers and one car. It's quiet and dark again.

By Russell Corfman
Copyright 1996 Russell Corfman