Make it Happen, #26: Bring the Liberation Fire to my Town on Liberation Day

by - 9:20 PM

Once every five years my country celebrates its freedom. We do that on the 5th of May, the day the Netherlands were freed from the Nazi regime, back in 1945. Some people celebrate this by organizing a parade, going to music festivals or getting drunk (this option is very popular as usual). Other people pay their respect to the soldiers from Canada, the US, Poland and other countries who died in an attempt to liberate the Netherlands from the Nazi regime. These people go to Wageningen on Commemoration Day, May 4th, to receive the 'Liberation Fire' and run all night long in a huge Liberation Relay to bring the Fire to their hometown. One of those people was me.

The symbol of our freedom:
the Liberation Fire
From Envy's Make it Happen List
#26: Bring the Liberation Fire to my Town on Liberation Day
Status: Awesomeness Achieved

It was around 11pm on Monday when a bus full of people from my training group left for Wageningen, a place in the East of the country, where the peace treaty concerning my country was signed. I was excited. It's an honour to bring the Liberation Fire home. Five years ago I had to hear all my dad's amazing stories when he did the Liberation Relay. I was thirteen back then, too young to stay up and run all night. At eighteen, however, I'm strong enough to be part of the team.
It almost went wrong before we even left for Wageningen, because someone had forgotten to pack his running shoes (no, I'm not making this up). After this guy had raced home to get his shoes, we could finally go. We travelled in an awesome part bus for about 1.5 hours. The way back home would take us a little longer...

Bad angle, but you get the idea
It started raining the minute we got on the bus. It was raining when we arrived in Wageningen and it was still raining at 1am, when we received a torch, lit with the original Liberation Fire, which apparently burns all year long somewhere in England, but in the Netherlands it only burns on Liberation Day. No one complained as we stood in the pouring rain in front of Hotel De Wereld, where the treaty is said to be signed, and no one complained when we started running and took a wrong turn after only three minutes. All of us were excited as we ran to the bus with the whole team (about 30 runners total). After almost two kilometers we got onto the bus and the first relay team, the one with my dad in it, started running their first leg. At that point we had 90 long kilometers and many sleepless hours ahead of us.

I was part of the fifth team, along with two girls who are slightly older than me. We seemed to be waiting on our turn for hours, as the rain poured down outside and the temperature inside rose to about 35 degrees Celsius. Only after getting out of the bus on the Grebbeberg at a WWII cemetary to pay our respect to the fallen soldiers, we noticed that the humidity in the bus had shot up to levels high enough to support marine life...
Around 2am my team and I got out into the cool night to wait for Team 4 to arrive. When they arrived I was the first of my team to hold the torch with the Liberation Fire. It was heavy, much heavier than I'd expected it to be. I spent the first 500 meters of the 2000 meters I had to run trying to find a way to hold it without turning my whole team into human torches. The others faced a different problem: every snail in the area had decided to crawl across the road we were taking. Bianca, one of my teammates, kept accidentally stepping on them and the sound of cruncing shells became the soundtrack of our first leg.
After about 700 meters I handed the torch to Mandy, my other teammate. She ran with the torch in her hand for about the same distance, then handed it to Bianca. Bianca ran ten meters, then said quietly: 'It's out.'
As we kept on running we looked at the torch. No Liberation Fire to be seen. We didn't understand it: there was no wind that could've blown it out and it had stopped raining shortly after we left the bus. I panicked, but then remembered there was still a bit of fire burning in an oil lamp we kept in the bus. I almost cried when the fire went out though...

It started raining again when my team and I got back on the bus, so people decided not to go running with the torch anymore.
I got tired at that point, so I tried to stay awake by telling horror stories and eating pancakes. That worked pretty well and at 3.50am it was time for Team 5 to run again. It was still pitch black outside. I could just see where we were going. We ran past a pasture full of horses, who ran along with us for a while. Then we were all alone again until a frog crossed our path - and got crushed by Mandy's foot. It wasn't funny, but Mandy's expression of disgust and self-hatred for killing a frog was hilarious.

By the time my second leg came to and end it was 4.05am. The bus driver was being grumpy and drove more than 2k before he stopped to wait for us, while we weren't supposed to run more than 2k at once. I was very tired by that time. I hadn't slept in 20 hours and I had run 6k already. I decided to look up where we were on Google maps: we had only a quarter of the way behind us...
I didn't want to run anymore. It felt so pointless at that moment. I also had at least two more legs ahead of me and zero energy in my body. To make matters worse: we were behind on schedule. We had to run faster if we wanted to present the Liberation Fire to the mayor at 10am. And when I thought it couldn't get any worse, a fourteen-year-old wanted to talk about superheroes with me. Sounds like fun, but it really wasn't, cause all he did was hate on the heroes I love (if you're looking for a quick way to die: talk trash about Captain America in front of me). I was getting dangerously close to my breaking point when someone pointed out of the window and said: 'Look, the sun is rising.'
That was the moment I started to feel better about the Liberation Relay again. I put some new shoes on and watched the sun rise. It was beautiful. As I sat there, looking at the sun rise over the flat polders of my country, I realized how lucky I am to live this life. It's not all about awesomeness and happiness all the time, but I'm free and healthy. Lots of people can't say the same...
With that in mind I started running my third leg. I was tired and my legs started to ache, but I couldn't give up. Too many people died during the Second World War to secure the freedom I'd been enjoying so much just a few minutes ago.
I kept on running. By the end of me third leg I was exhausted, but it helped a lot that we met up with people from my other training group, who were also doing the Liberation Relay. My dad's friend, who was in the other group, gave me a bear hug and kept saying: 'You can do it, you can do it!'
More than enough room to
sleep in the back of the bus :)
I was sure I could do it at that moment. We were finally past the halfway mark. And that's when I passed out on a couch in the back of the bus and slept for 45 minutes (apparently there are several pictures and videos of me sleeping on the bus, but I haven't received any yet) and only woke up because the superhero-obsessed kid tried to sit on my head and landed with his butt on my hair. Let me tell you: it freaking hurt!

Not long after I woke up we reached familiar terrain: the province of Zuid Holland. I felt like I wouldn't be able to take one more step. People told me I had just one more 2k leg ahead of me, so I agreed to do it. The 2k leg turned out to be on a dyke where I'd ran before - a dyke with a length of 4k!
The bus was nowhere to be seen and I wanted to cry. I didn't want to run anymore. I kept telling myself I had to. I thought of the soldiers who ran up on the French beaches on D-Day. For some reason it inspired me to keep running. If they could keep running on those beaches, straight towards an almost certain death, then I could keep running on a safe stretch of dyke with a comfortable bus waiting for me at the end.
I reached the bus as the first person of Team 5, with the other right behind me. The bus parked right in front of a gigantic mudpool and there was no way around it. I ran straigt through it and into the bus, leaving a trail of muddy foot prints all the way into the back of the bus. I was too tired to care.

Yup, I look like crap. The air in the bus
was so humid it made my hair
We were coming closer and closer to the finish line. About 6k before the town limits a friend of my dad came with some friends and escorted us. It was awesome, since they were all riding old motorcycles that were already around in 1945.
One last time I got out of the bus to run 2 more kilometers. People were on the streets, applauding and cheering. It felt good and I felt so proud of myself. It felt just like the final day of the Inca Trail.
We stopped for a while at a restaurant and had breakfast. I felt crappy by then and thought I'd look just as crappy as I felt. The picture my mom took of me at the breakfast table only proves that I was totally right about that...

The whole adventure ended at 10am, when we presented the Liberation Fire to the mayor. We had lighted a torch again (which went out literally a minute before we had to give it to the mayor) and a much bigger fire was lighted with it. I couldn't believe it was over. My legs hurt terribly and my eyes were burning, but I didn't want it to be over. Next time I'll be part of the Liberation Relay will be in 2020 and I'll be almost 24... I can't wait to be running the Relay again, though.

If I think about it for too long, it all seems very silly. 30 people in a party bus go to the East of the country to pick up a fire, then instead of going back by bus they start running. They run all night for a silly little flame. Sounds stupid. But think of it a little longer and it becomes beautiful again. The flame isn't just a flame: it stands for hope, freedom and peace. The running was symbolic for suffering (at least in my case). Suddenly it's not silly anymore. Suddenly you've done something noble and beautiful, in the honour of the heroes who liberated your country exactly 70 ago. And that's worth it. It's worth the blisters, aches and sleepless night.

Stay Awesome!

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10 Fellow Ramblers

  1. So cool! ^.^ What an honor!

    xoxo Morning

    1. It was amazing, I hope to be on the team in 2020 too :)

  2. *Applause*
    Well done Envy Fisher!You and your team did a great job :D
    What would that kids superhero name be? Buttman xD

    1. *takes a bow*
      Thanks, Neal :)
      I won't tell that kid that you called him Buttman, he'll probably like it and then I'll have to hear about it forever...

  3. Wow...I love ceremonial stuff. That sounds really cool. Seems like you and your team did well, well done! We have a similar thing in my country but in memorial of WWI. :)

    1. I love the ceremonial stuff too, even though it sounds silly when you think about it for too long.
      I'll say 'thank you' on behalf of my team :)
      My country was neutral during WWI, but for some reason that war fascinates me.

  4. This is so incredibly inspiring. So, so inspiring. You and your team are really amazing.
    I really loved the way you celebrated the whole thing whole-heartedly, without giving in. This really showed how much proud you are of your country and how determined you are to maintain its prestige and glory.
    Really fantastic!
    Stay awesome as ever,
    Much love,
    Archie <3

    1. Thank you :)
      I don't get to show my national pride on many occasions, and this one meant so much to me that I couldn't give up, not even when I was exhausted.


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