Running with magic 

The Olympic flame sparks reflection as it inspires those who touch it

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They are a mom, a systems analyst, a high school student and a former mayor.

Included too are a teacher, a snowboard instructor, a bank account manager, a personal trainer and an environmental manager.

Though former Olympians are among their ranks, and a 2010 athlete going for gold this year, they are, for the most part, just regular Joes.

But on Feb. 5 and 6 they will be united in an unforgettable experience, carrying the Olympic flame through their own town.

"This is just the pinnacle," said Heather Paul, who is pregnant with her first child. "Running the torch with my son or daughter with me is..."

She's rarely speechless. Paul is at home on stage making audiences laugh in pantomimes, performing Shakespeare or putting on high school musicals. But today she simply cannot find the words to express how it feels to be one of two municipal employees chosen to carry the flame in Whistler.

"I'm going to be a crying mess is all I can say."

She isn't alone.

From one end of the country to the other on its 45,000 km journey across Canada, the Torch Relay has had a powerful impact, a moving and emotional experience for millions of Canadians.

Jim Richards has seen it happen first hand.

He's the keeper of the flame.

As the program director for the Olympic Torch Relay, Richards has been with the flame since its journey began in Greece in late October. Since then he has been on the road trip of a lifetime.

He has watched as the flame has "captured the heart of the nation" whether it was on roller blades or rowboats, on skis or in a small plane, on a surfboard or a skateboard.

"It's the magic of the flame itself," said Richards.

Don't believe in the magic? Doug Forseth does now.

It was Dec. 9. Day 41 of the torch relay. The snow was blowing sideways at Mont Tremblant, a blizzard on the way.

Forseth, Whistler Blackcomb's senior vice-president of operations, was one of three Intrawest employees, nominated by co-workers, interviewed and then chosen to run.

He was the first torchbearer of the day in Tremblant, miles away from home. He truly did not know what to expect.

Behind the crowds Forseth lit his torch from one of the 10 miners' lamps, which have protected the sacred flame since it was lit by the sun in Olympia, Greece.

As he began his leg of the relay Forseth no longer felt the minus nine degree winds blowing through his thin white torchbearer uniform, no longer felt the ache from his broken foot.

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