The runners make the Uganda Marathon what it is. The friendships, the community, the fundraising and the determination to finish is why UGM is truly a Race Like No Other. Here we tell the stories of the runners who took part in UGM 2016, as they share their insights and experiences of the week-long adventure.
Emily signed up for the event as she thought it ‘had it all’ – volunteering, travel, adventure and challenge. Whilst in Uganda, she volunteered at ‘Knowledge for Children’ (the project she fundraised for), stayed at the campsite, and ran the full 42-kilometre marathon course. Here, she talks about this and more- including her experience of training and the community element of the UGM…
1. What made you sign up for the Uganda Marathon 2016?
I actually saw a competition on Facebook to win a place on the Uganda Marathon 2016. I entered straight away, but by the time I realised I hadn’t won, I was so set on going that there was no option but to sign up. I thought it had it all – opportunity to meet the local community, volunteer with the projects, travel, adventure, and to top it off a big bloody challenge. For me, it ticked all the boxes.
2. Was it what you expected?
Yes and a whole lot more!! It’s hard to put into words what I expected – I was so unbelievably excited for it, but at the same time really nervous, and I didn’t know how things would go. I’d signed up by myself not knowing anybody. Would I make friends? Would I manage with minimal facilities? Would I be able to finish the run? Would I be safe? I thought about all these things but so had the Uganda Marathon team.
Runs were arranged beforehand so we could meet fellow runners, all our questions were answered, and we got some great training tips in the build up to the run. Out in Uganda the campsite was amazing, set in the most stunning location, within no time it became home. Strangers quickly became friends, and each day, each new experience, well it blew me away…. And well Uganda is the most welcoming country! I’m filled with happiness just writing about it now.
3. You visited the project you were fundraising for on one of the volunteer days- Knowledge for Children. What did you get up to and what was it like to meet the people you were running the marathon for?
Oh where do I even begin to describe this experience. This was my first day. We spent the morning learning about the project and the team members involved with it, being introduced to games the children play to help with learning and then blown away by the feast we were presented with at lunch. In the afternoon we delivered workbooks to one of the local schools. The welcome we received will stay with me forever. The children ran out to greet us with the biggest smiles I have ever seen – they were so excited for us to be there and just wanted to hold our hands or give us high fives. It was unbelievable. We took part in a ceremony to hand over the workbooks – the fact that something as simple as workbooks can have such an impact is beyond humbling in itself. We were treated to songs and dancing and more smiles – I was so sad to leave. It is one of the best memories (among the many) of my time in Uganda.
4. How would you describe the experience of training for the marathon in the months building up to the event? You attended some of UGM social training runs- did they help?
Training is tough – there’s no doubt about that. This wasn’t my first marathon, but it was so different to the ones I’d done before, it was definitely new territory. The social runs really helped, but mainly as a great way to meet people beforehand, and realise that we were all feeling the same way about things. Running with others can make it a lot easier to complete a training session too. Mark (the running guru) was really great and reading blogs from previous years runners also really helped. I had bad weeks and good weeks with the training, and I was definitely not as prepared as I would have liked. It takes a lot of time, effort and willpower to keep the momentum heading in the right direction, but running for these amazing projects is the BEST motivation to keep you focused.
5. You ran the full 26.2 mile marathon course on Race Day. What was it like?
Honestly – it was really bloody hard and really bloody hot! I won’t beat around the bush on that one. This is a tough challenge and a tough course… I mean, when there are hills called “the beast” you know it’s not going to be easy.
But it’s achievable. It’s stunning and rewarding and the support from people along the route literally gives you goose bumps. I had a little Ugandan boy run/walk with me for a decent part of the second lap, which I was hugely grateful for, before he got too tired to carry on. However, when he turned up on the back of a boda boda [motorbike], about a mile before the end, so we could cross the finish line together – well you can imagine how motivational that was (never mind emotional)!
6. Finally, what was your best overall memory of the Uganda Marathon, and how would you sum it up for someone who hasn’t been?
This was literally the best week ever – it was more than I could have ever hoped for and impossible to name just one moment that stood out the most for me. It opened my eyes to so much, taught me a lot and gave me so many experiences that I will never forget.
And in fact, it’s not just about the week you are in Uganda. It’s about the months beforehand… meeting people, pulling those trainers on to get out for your long run, the build up from the UGM team. And the months after, when Uganda reunions are the best part of your week, and more adventures are had with the friends you’ve made for life. It’s such a special, memorable experience and I’m so grateful I was a part of it! Go do it!
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