I had attended Session 1 on Friday 14th July, and I had tickets to attend Sessions 2, 3, 4 and 5 over the weekend. Although I had only been volunteering for two days, I felt like it was all I had ever done all my life. Normal daily life was a distant memory. Days were merging into one, and I was TIRED – I had walked almost 20,000 steps on the Friday and I think it must have been around midnight when I got to bed and I needed to be up bright and early for Session 2 when doors opened at 10am. I had booked to see that morning session with Stacey – and she rocked up with a hangover as she had celebrated her birthday the night before. It was going to be a LONG day as I had the morning session with her, and then I was booked to see the evening session and doors didn’t open until 7pm. I was going to see Mandy, Vicki, Liz and Kevin in the evening as they were venturing in from Essex to see the Superhumans – it was Liz and Kevin’s first experience of seeing Para sport and they both loved it so much that they decided to come over on the Sunday night as well, when we were all due to be going again.
Session 2 had a lot of qualifying sessions for the rest of the weekend, but it was when Steph Reid won her long jump gold for Team GB and we also saw Rheed McCracken take part in his 100m heat. It wasn’t a very packed session though in terms of spectators and it did lack atmosphere which was a shame after the feeling on Friday night for the opening session – saying that, daytime sessions always do have a different feel to evening sessions. Hark at me, going on like a pro!
My lasting memory of the daytime was actually after that session. Stacey and I had a wander past the Hero Village – where medal ceremonies took place – and then past the Podium Cafe and took up residence on two of the wooden benches along that path. It was perfect for people watching and we saw lots of stars – Whizbee the mascot came by on the park buggy (and blew me a kiss!), then Steph Reid came by on the way to collect her medal, and also Lord Coe was there, doing an interview just next to The Orbit. Stacey was absolutely hanging and although we had planned to hang about for ages, she had to go home to be hungover in private which left me alone.
I sat on my bench for a good three or four hours after Stacey left me. I was wearing my pink Runner hoodie, and I did feel like I was on duty as I smiled at lots of people walking by, who were enjoying the park. I also think I helped a few people out with directions to the Hero Village and I sat and had a nice chat with a man who needed help with a survey he was doing for uni – I had all the time in the world while I was awaiting my evening session buddies to come, and I just sat there watching the world go by for hours.
Eventually, at around 5 I had a call from Vicki and I wandered up to meet them for a little catch up as I haven’t seen them for a few months. I filled them in on what I had been up to doing my Runner duties, and how tired I was, but how it was totally amazing and I was absolutely loving it. We all said about how excited we were about the evening session, and soon made our way over Bridge 1 and onto the stadium island. We made our way around to the warm up track, to see who we could see, and for Liz and Kevin to see their first real-live Superhumans. I pointed out some of the faces I recognised to them while they were warming up.
Soon it was time to take our seats. I was sitting in the home straight, and the others had seats on the back straight so we said our goodbyes (until the next day!) and made our way in. I always insist on sitting in the most expensive seats, simply to lessen the chance of being sat near irritating families with screeching kids who get bored very quickly of the sport going on in front of them. It still happens, but I was lucky during the games really and only asked to be moved once – and it ended up being to a way better seat anyway.
As I settled myself in my seat, I was unpacking my camera and flag and I spotted my old friend Liam Malone. He was down beside the track with a woman (who I didn’t recognise) getting ready for broadcasting live on Channel 4. Looking very suave in a suit, and different to how he looked when I saw him on Thursday afternoon in his jeans and a t-shirt. I saw people start to go down to speak to him, and to get pictures and I wasn’t going to miss out on that so I looked over to plan my route as he was a couple of blocks over, and then skipped off and down the stairs to the bottom. There was a steward sat at the bottom and he just rolled his eyes at me. I asked him if he could get Liam for me and he said I have to call him over and I did. I was much more nervous this time than I was when I met him on the Thursday, but he came bounding over, opened the gate and came onto my side of it, and off the track area and I asked if he had managed to get to see his mates OK the other day and he said yes. I was so surprised he remembered me! I asked if we could have another photo, and he said of course, and this time he took it.
After I had posted the photo from Thursday in the Facebook group of Liam, a few of the other Runners and Team Waiting members said it would be great if we could get Liam to come to our party. He had said something about wanting to party while in London when he was on The Last Leg the night before (I hadn’t seen it, as I had been spectating). There was a little event planned for the first Saturday of the IAAF event for members of Team Waiting to come and meet up with successful Runners so we could all finally meet after knowing each other via Facebook for months and having been through the whole process together. I said that if I got to meet Liam again, I would definitely ask him and this was my moment. I got quite tongue-tied, but managed it but I couldn’t remember the date, so I said I would Tweet him with it when I had it.
I must have been stood chatting for a while as the woman behind me waiting for her turn for a photo made some comment about me taking up all his time talking – but what can I say? We were having a catch up, which is what old friends do! I made my way back to my seat and let the ladies know who were sitting next to me that he was lovely and tried to encourage them to go and say hello to him as well. London 2017 was the first big event after Rio 2016, so it was the first time that Liam had a captive audience even if he wasn’t able to compete. Less than a year ago, I had absolutely no idea who he was, and during the Paralympic Games he just won the hearts of so many people with his unique interview style and sense of humour and of course his amazing story of getting his blades crowd-funded, and losing his mum to cancer. It was an honor to have met him not once, but twice.
The session was another cracker with great sports and a first from what I believe – during a 5000m race with visually impaired runners and their guides, one of the runners swapped guides half way through the race. This happened on the opposite side of the stadium so my view wasn’t that good, but it was definitely controversial! Richard Whitehead stormed to another gold in the T42 200m race, with Ntando Mahlangu from South Africa getting the silver and Dave Henson winning bronze – the same result from when they were in Rio almost 12 months before. Ntando is certainly a name to watch as he was just 13 when he won silver in Rio! It was also the same result during the Anniversary Games in 2016.
It was another wonderful day at The Park and in one of my favourite places. I made my way home, sorted out my photos and went to bed to get ready for another full day on the Sunday before yet more volunteering – every single day the following week – with Venue Transport at the load zones.