MONROE — Brian Johnston puts it simply and sincerely when he describes his reaction to being selected to carry the torch at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Greece this month.
“I’m very humbled,” the Monroe police sergeant said.
Johnson has been part of the Monroe Police Department‘s long history of raising money and supporting the Special Olympics. He well remembers the day former police Chief Colleen Wilson said she would jump out of an airplane if her department raised $10,000 for the cause. They did just that, so she took the plunge.
Over the years, Johnston has become acquainted with many of the athletes with special needs who participate in the competition. Some have become his Facebook friends.
Johnston will be part of a 145-member international team of torch-bearers. It includes 101 runners from law enforcement, 10 Special Olympics athletes and support personnel. They will begin in Athens and break away in smaller teams before reuniting in the Greek capital before the opening ceremonies.
When he was picked to represent all officers from Washington state this year, he felt honored individually and proud of the efforts of his department.
A few years ago, it would have been hard for Johnston to imagine running with the torch across stretches of Greece and Turkey. Then, again, it would have been hard to imagine him running very far through east Snohomish County.
Johnston was overweight and grew easily winded when he engaged in vigorous exercise for any length of time.
“For most of my adult life, I gained and gained and gained,” he said.
Finally, a doctor told him he might consider lap-band surgery.
“That woke me up,” he said.
Johnston, who grew up near Martha Lake near Lynnwood, found the right gym, the right coach and the right approach.
“Walking into a club in the shape I was in was extremely intimidating,” he said.
He soon overcame his reticence.
Over time, he established a routine of biking, running and gym workouts that included cycling classes.
He completed the popular Seattle-to-Portland bike ride in one day in three-successive summers.
He began to sleep better after years of lousy slumber.
In 2007, he shed 100 pounds. He lost another 10 since then and has maintained his weight at 168 pounds.
He also has been inspired by Special Olympic athletes who set a good example by doing their very best, he said.
This week, he’ll arrive in Athens where the Olympics began.
He’ll follow in the footsteps of another Monroe officer. In 2007, Sgt. Cindy Chessie was selected to represent state law enforcement at the Special Olympic World Games in China.
Johnston will meet new friends from other parts of the world and take part in running from town to town for ceremonies to heighten awareness for Special Olympics and the World Games.
On June 25, the flame will ignite the cauldron at the opening ceremony for the World Games. Between June 24 and July 4, roughly 7,500 Special Olympics athletes from 185 nations are expected to compete.
Johnston can’t wait for the flame to be lit.
“That is going to be bone-chilling,” he said.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, email@example.com