The runners make the Uganda Marathon what it is. The people, the community, the fundraising and the determination to finish is why UGM is truly a Race Like No Other. We want to tell the stories of the runners taking part in our event because it’s their stories that are the most exciting!
Tom & Bertie are two recent graduates, who have been living out in Uganda & volunteering for a charity in recent months. They’ve been making big efforts on the fundraising front too! So we wanted to share their Ugandan story so far with you…
1. You’re both been based in Uganda prior to the marathon in June… Could you tell us a little bit about your Ugandan adventure so far, when you arrived and why you decided to come to Uganda?
Tom: We’ve been in East Africa since late January and have travelled around Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania which were all fantastic and gave us a truly once in a lifetime experience. Really it all started with wanting to take a year out after university and go somewhere which isn’t the normal gap year location. When the opportunity came to do some volunteering for the ‘Henry van Straubezee Memorial Fund’ then we saw it as a great chance to experience more of everyday Ugandan life than you would if you are just travelling from tourist spot to tourist spot.
Bertie:We got in to contact with HvSMF after we’d got the idea to travel to East Africa, and they offered us accommodation in a simple house in the middle of a 2000 pupil primary school. Living there has been fun, if not peaceful. For one school term we’ve been teaching at a couple of rural schools in the area, which as Tom says, has been an exceptional opportunity to experience a lifstyle completely different to one’s own back in England.
2. Why did you sign up for the marathon, and what are you most excited about?
Tom: HvSMF asked us whether we would like to do some fundraising for them alongside the volunteering we would be doing and we thought it was a great opportunity to support a cause which we would have firsthand experience of. When the dates worked well for the marathon we realised that it would be a great challenge and a rewarding end to our stay in Uganda.
Bertie: Easily what I most excited about is crossing the finish line; assuming I make it! And possibly that first cold beer afterwards.
3. What has the experience been like of fundraising in Uganda? Have there been any challenges with being based in Uganda & fundraising?
Tom: Fundraising is hard in Uganda because of wifi access. It means that you really have to plan in advance, so we made sure we had done as much as we could before we left the UK. That being said, when you’re out here you can really improve your page because photos and experiences are at your fingertips.
Bertie: Fundraising has largely involved pleading with the people back home. It’s not ideal, because you’re not in personal contact with the people who you would like to donate. I think that distance makes it harder to connect with people, as you need to do when fundraising. We are very lucky, however, to have very generous family and friends!
4. What has your experience been of Ugandan culture? Do you have any advice for our runners who are travelling to Uganda for the first time?
Tom: Ugandan culture is really friendly. The people are incredibly generous, sometimes overly so. For example if you are offered a meal, then be prepared for a very large portion. They will also help you with anything, if you just ask.
One of the main things is to pick up on the phrases Ugandans use which we don’t, for example if you ask for ‘change’ after buying something, you may get a blank look but if you ask for ‘balance’ then you’ll be understood. These sort of things really make life much easier and there is a great list of them in the back of the Brandt guidebook which really is a must read before you come. As long as you come with an open mind, then you’ll absolutely love the place and the people.
Bertie: What’s most interesting to me about Ugandan life is to see how very simply most Ugandans live, and yet to see that they are no less happy (if anything, more so) than their contemporaries in the West. It’s quite a powerful lesson. I recommend anyone visiting to communicate with the people here and to try and learn something from them.
The other thing I’d recommend is learning just a little of the local language (Luganda) to use when you’re out here! I can assure you that you’ll be very well received.
5. Finally, how has the training been going? Do you feel ready to run the marathon?
Tom: Training has been going well. Getting used to the heat was a shock because you just can’t run at the same pace for the same amount of time, and we’ve both suffered from dehydration after runs a few times. Thankfully the rainy season has come which means temperatures have cooled and it’s somewhat cloudier. It’s hard to say if we’re ready for the marathon but I suppose there’s only one way to find out!
Bertie: We’re running the full marathon. Training has been going decently, altough its quite hard to tell given that we’ve never done any long distance running before at all. I’m feeling fairly positive, and I think the next couple of weeks are key. When all is said and done, the most important thing is to cross the finish line.
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