With the XXI Commonwealth Games in full swing, I’ve been looking at photos and reflecting back on what was one of the most amazing experiences of my life – participating in the Queen’s Baton Relay during the lead up to the games.
Sometime in 2017 I received notification that I had been nominated as a Batonbearer for the upcoming Commonwealth Games by not one, but two lovely ladies, both of whom I had met along my running journey. I was very humbled and felt so honored that they had taken the time to do such a thing for me and honestly did not think I would get selected from the thousands and thousands of other very deserving nominees out there.
A couple of months later I received an email informing me that I had made the initial selection process and now had to pass the police background check. I was so surprised, but even at this point I wasn’t convinced I’d made the cut. However, in November 2017 I received a further email which confirmed I had indeed secured a position as one of the 3,800 Australians whom would run in the Queen’s Baton Relay ahead of the XXI Commonwealth Games to be held on the Gold Coast, Queensland in 2018. WOW!!
The other part of the news I received, was that I would participate in Brisbane only a few days before the games were due to start. Initially I wasn’t sure how this would work out considering the majority of my friends and family are based in Sydney, but we decided to turn it into an epic adventure and took a family holiday and my parents and great friends joined us also.
When the day arrived, I started it out by running at a local parkrun event with a friend who lives in Brisbane – one of my absolute favourite things to do on a Saturday morning! After a post-parkrun coffee, I returned to our holiday apartment and spent the day taking the kids to the pool and having some lunch, before donning the uniform I had been sent. At this point, the nerves started creeping in!
My husband and boys dropped me off at my check in point for briefing and to meet everyone else in my section of the relay. As soon as I got my name marked off and received my number, the hosts made me feel at ease. They said things like “Don’t be nervous or worry about anything or anyone else. Today is your time to shine and we are all here for you. It’s people like you that make this country a great one – we thank you so much for your contribution”. Again, WOW!
During the next hour or so, our hosts talked us through the process, including what would happen each step of the way and which way to hold the baton. They also had every single member of our group tell their own story about what had led to their nominations and ultimate selection to be a Batonbearer. The stories were wide and varied from huge fundraising efforts, tireless volunteer work, a current elite athlete, some up and coming athletes and some past athletes; everyone having one thing in common – dedication, hard work and much of the time, selfless work, towards a greater cause. I was in incredible company!
Soon enough we boarded the bus. The atmosphere was electrifying! The convoy of vehicles we were in, the crowds lining the streets and the cheers our hosts had us do for each other as we each set off on our way – I felt like I was in a dream.
When it was my turn, I stepped off the bus to my fellow batonbearers cheering “Let’s go Rachel, Let’s go!” and was greeted by another relay representative giving me last minute instructions, my family and friends and a television crew!
After a a quick hello, a few photos with everyone, and an interview for the live television stream, it was my turn to run. My heart was racing but I also felt very calm and ready to go. The hosts had done a great job in getting us ready and one of the police escorts talked to me almost the whole way, which all helped settle any lingering nerves.
Once I had the baton, it was time to go. Even though I jogged along slowly and was not at all breathless or sweaty at the end, it seemed to be THE fastest 200m run of my life! My family and friends also followed me along my segment, taking photos and cheering; random people called out my name and clapped as I ran past them and strangers came up to me afterwards to say congratulations, ask about my nomination story and pose for photos. It was an unbelievable experience to say the least!
Now that I have had time to process the whole thing, I still find I am pinching myself to make sure I am awake! I thank everyone who has joined me over the past 5 or 6 years which led to this wonderful experience. It is largely due to all of you that I had the opportunity for this amazing, unforgettable and once-in-a-lifetime honor. Thank you so much!