Here, we interview runners who have participated in the Uganda Marathon, so they can share their stories and experiences from the 7-Day Adventure. After all, it’s their involvement which makes the week so special, from the impact they have on the projects, to community feel they give to the race.
Prudence and Bob joined us all the way from Florida in the USA and participated in the full marathon event, running 42 Kilometers through rural Uganda for the Charity Project, STEP (Support for the Elderly Person). At 65 years old themselves, they prove age is no barrier to taking part in the 7-Day Adventure…all that’s needed is a positive attitude and a desire to help the local Ugandan community!
1. What made you both sign up for the Uganda Marathon and was it what you expected?
For several years we have supported a young Ugandan woman and her son. Prudence had never had the opportunity to meet them and was searching for a reason to travel to Uganda. On a whim, she googled Uganda Marathon and that was our first introduction to a “race like no other.” This seemed like a perfect opportunity to achieve two bucket list items, to meet Judith and Brandon and run a marathon in another country. The unique service (ie. volunteering) component sold us on the opportunity.
Our week in Masaka was so much more than we expected. Beginning with the first introductions, international friendships were made because of our common goals of serving and running. The warm and inviting local community did so much to encourage our efforts. All of this was made possible by the excellent team of the Uganda Marathon. Every facet of the experience from start to finish was well organized.
2. You visited the charity project STEP during the week. Could you tell us about your experience there?
Because we are over 65 we thought the STEP (Support the Elderly Persons) project would be something we could connect with. It wasn’t until we met Beatrice, the founder and director of STEP, that we truly understood the need and fully embraced the project. Although the Ugandan culture is family centric, they have lost an entire generation to disease and war. The elderly have been left without adult children to support them and in many cases, they are raising their grandchildren. The Uganda Marathon has supported STEP by creating three sustainable initiatives; dairy, pigs & chickens.
STEP supports the elderly by organizing them into small community groups. When we went to the dairy farm we meant one of these communities. They were sincere and hardworking with beautiful hearts. Prudence wanted to know the requirements to join a STEP community. We were told you had to be over 60 and pay 10,000 Uganda shillings (roughly $3.00). We are now proud members!
Our clan built a chicken brooder out of upcycled water bottles and helped complete the construction of a two-story chicken coop. It seemed ordained that in our clan were carpenters, engineers, and labourers – every skill we needed to complete the task. It was hard work, but the fellowship and laughter lightened the load.
As we headed back to the hotel we were satisfied and knew we had left our legacy. The funds we had raised before the trip would be used to purchase chickens to fill the coop and STEP communities will receive funds to support their members. This is what makes the Uganda Marathon a “race like no other.”
3. You stayed in our hotel option. What was it like?
Having had the opportunity to stay in other third world countries we had limited expectations but were pleasantly surprised. The room was clean. There was never a power outage so we had hot water for every shower. Wi-Fi coverage was better than we expected. The city of Masaka was a short walk away. It was around the table at meals and the beautiful pool that many of our strongest friendships were formed. However, we feel it was the Uganda Marathon team (Ian) that insured our stay was pleasant.
From the very first practice run, it was obvious that we, as flatlanders, were going to have to adjust our marathon expectations. For each practice, we were joined by the Masaka running club who encouraged us and supported us up every hill. And when have you ever had the opportunity to run through an African city passing out flyers to promote the run. What fun!
While running the marathon, a fellow runner summed up our feelings when she said, “This is the best and worst run I have ever done.” Yes, it was hard, the hardest race we have ever done, but it was worth every mile. The amazing views and the interaction with children along the way created a magical experience. In fact, at one difficult point in the race (The Beast) four children actually pushed us up the hill, and we needed all the help we could get.
A concern that was expressed before we left was safety. We actually felt safer on this marathon than any of the previous marathons we have run in the U.S. We never felt alone or lost on the course. Each water station had plenty of bottled water and two EMT’s who provided sunscreen and checked on our condition. The water stations, EMT’s and course guides remained in place until the last person crossed the finish-line. We know this because we were the last two runners to cross the finish-line.
As we crossed the finish-line, we felt an unbelievable sense of accomplishment. We have never experienced the cheers and hugs like the ones we received that afternoon in any previous race. Many of our fellow runners stayed hours to help cheer us in and even the boy scouts who served as course guides wanted their picture taken with us.
5. Finally, what was your best overall memory from the week, and how would you sum it up for someone who hasn’t been?
When we reflect on the experience, our fondest memories are of the friends we made. We broke bread together, we worked together, we played together, we ran together, we cried together, and we laughed together. Together we made a difference.
This is an adventure of a lifetime that will change you forever.