The runners make the Uganda Marathon what it is. The friendships, the community, the fundraising and the determination to finish is why the UGM is truly a Race Like No Other. Here we tell the stories of the runners who took part in 2016 event, as they share their insights and experiences of the week-long adventure.
Here, Vicky tells her and Kevin’s incredible story of participating in the 7-day event. Giving a brilliant overview of the week, they talk about: why they signed up, their expectations, their experience of volunteering and their pick of top moments.
Plus, Vicky tells us about her love of barefoot running and how it tied into her marathon plans!!
1. What made you sign up for the Uganda Marathon 2016?
Loads of reasons that all came together into something that just felt right! I heard Henry (or maybe it was someone else who ran it?!) talk about it at YES Stories, and it just struck an instant chord with the challenges I wanted to set myself for 2016… I knew I wanted to do a big physical challenge in 2016 to kickstart my fitness again after a year or so. I also wanted to explore my boundaries as a barefoot runner and felt like this might be the perfect place to do it and there was also talk of there being creative projects in Uganda to support/fundraise for, which I really connected with.
Henry [the Race Director] was also a really good salesman… turned out he was right about pretty much all of what he described! The £100 deposit helped too!
2. Was it what you expected?
Yes and more! The campsite was one of the most magical I have ever stayed in. The people were open, warm, fun and all up for the challenge, and the team had just put so much effort into making sure we had an incredible week
3. What projects did you volunteer at during the week? Could you tell us about the experience?
The first day, we visited the STEP project and helped build an extension for a pig shed. It was hard work but so rewarding as between us we made incredible progress in one day! It also meant that the elderly community, who we were building it for, were able to have access to the pigs much sooner as it would have taken them months to build what we, as a group managed to achieve in 2 days. They also gave us such a warm welcoming reception and cooked the most delicious lunch! I love food anyway, so I really enjoyed tasting the authentic, yummy Ugandan fare!
We also volunteered at the blind school, SNE. We spent the morning painting their playground which was great fun for us, but really my main memory was being very humbled by the simplicity of their inside accommodation, impressed with their beautiful outside areas, and blown away with the kid’s warmth and joy!
Yes, quite a few. It was our first holiday together, so it was actually just pretty awesome having some time together away from ‘normal life’.
A few of my special moments were… firstly, the view out of our tent… makes me smile just thinking about it! And I loved sharing Uganda with Kev..(I’d been there once 12 years previously).
Also, on the kids fun day Kev and I ended up dancing with a group of about 50 kids and then teaching them the dance to the ‘Macarena’ and ‘Saturday Night’. They loved it, promise!
During the Marathon itself, Kev was insanely supportive and patient of my barefoot sandal shenanigans- one of them unexpectantly broke and I spent about 20 minutes fixing it, then getting a blister and was not a happy bunny. But he really kept me going and smiling! (As did all the incredible kids and people along the way!!)
We were also lucky enough to witness the surprise engagement on the ridge (of Philippa and her fiancee whose name I can’t remember!), which was a really beautiful moment… yep I cried!
Finally, finishing it! We finished together, but more importantly we finished arm in arm, with Sarah who we caught up with about 4 or 5 km before the end and who was in a lot of pain with her ankle, so we ran the last bit together and it turns out that she ran the whole thing on a broken ankle!!!!
5. Vicky, you ran in slightly unusual footwear – can you tell us a bit more about this?
Yep, my aim was to run the marathon barefoot as I have been running barefoot and with minimal footwear on and off for 4 years. The furthest I had ever ran barefoot was about 5km and I just really loved the adventure and feeling of freedom and lightness.
However, I have to admit that as my training runs got longer and longer, I began to find it harder and harder and got more and more frustrated as you have to almost constantly watch where you are running! This is fine, and feels like an adventure on a 5km run around a park but when you’re running 20km through the countryside and want to look up and enjoy it, it does start to get a bit frustrating. Oh, you live and learn!
I was also aware that the terrain in Uganda may not exactly be what I hoped for (lovely dry flat mud!), so I started training in a pair of Xero running sandals as well as barefoot. They are basically a thin (3mm) rubber sole that stay on with nylon laces (effectively!) tied around your feet and ankle. They were brilliant throughout my training but like a plonker I didn’t quite foresee that all the training runs may have worn the strap down. So yup one of them did snap about 50 minutes in, which sent me into a bit of a strop, but with the help of Kev and all the amazing locals I couldn’t stay stroppy for long!
I think the lesson for me was that I love barefoot running… in short distances… I quite enjoy wearing trainers now!
6. Could you please sum up the UGM for someone who hasn’t yet been?
Believe what you read. It’s an incredibly unique, worthwhile, fun and uplifting experience that you will never forget, JFDI! Oh and if you’re worried about running a hot, hilly, marathon in Africa, don’t! You can do it, even if your body hurts. The enthusiasm and support of the locals and the team will get you round!
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