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.
Julia, having moved to London, was seeking a big challenge and stumbled across the Uganda Marathon. Drawn to the opportunity of combining running with helping people in Masaka, she decided to take the plunge, and even stayed an extra week to make an even bigger impact!
Here’s her UGM Story…
1. What made you sign up for the Uganda Marathon 2016?
When I moved to London, I left behind my running group who had been three things for me: a source of challenge, inspiration, and connection. After soul-searching for a couple of months, trying new running clubs and getting disappointed, I saw the Uganda Marathon pop up on my Facebook feed.
I was immediately drawn into the challenge of running a marathon in extreme conditions and began to explore it a bit more. Seeing the ways that the Marathon helps make a difference and improve the lives of people in Uganda, I was eventually inspired to take a leap and sign up. What I didn’t expect was the opportunity to meet so many like-minded people with whom I have formed deep, lifelong connections. The Uganda Marathon filled a void that nothing else could – and I am tremendously grateful for that.
2. Was it what you expected?
I remember reading all kinds of testimonials about the Marathon on the UGM website and wondered what all the hype was about. I was perhaps a little cynical, assuming the countless messages of thanks and gratitude were just a great marketing ploy…
But from the moment I arrived, I was proven wrong. Everything was beyond any expectation I had! From the campsite to the nightlife, to the volunteering and the food… no testimonial can do it justice. You’ve just got to go out there and experience it, to believe it.
I volunteered at Bugabira school, MVRC and Women’s Soroptimist. Each project had its own unique way of getting the volunteers involved. There was such an array of things to do and you could get as involved in the activities as you liked. [At the three projects respectively] I painted a playground, made a T-joint out of scrap bits of wood, and helped make and distribute hand-made sanitary towels made from banana leaf to women in a local prison. Although we were supervised by someone from the UGM team at all times, it was the locals who were guiding volunteers through the day, which felt authentic and very real.
I wanted to make the most of being in Uganda. I decided one week just wasn’t enough! I had alternated between doing a safari or gorilla trekking but felt that those were things I could do another time. Instead, I opted to benefit from the amazing connections that UGM team have with the local community to co-design and run a woman’s leadership workshop. The UGM team connected me with one of the local women from Women’s Soroptimist International.
Before I travelled to Uganda, Shadia and I worked virtually (via whatsapp!) to create two workshops for local women and girls, designed to empower and encourage them to remain in education and step into leadership roles.
The experience of working with Shadia was second to none. [In Uganda] I spent the week in her company facilitating the workshops, staying at the local hostel in Villa Katwe with other volunteers. It was the perfect way to spend my week after the marathon – even if I was hobbling around a little bit for the first 2 days!
5. What was your best overall memory of the Uganda Marathon, and how would you sum it up for someone who hasn’t been?
This has to be the hardest question of all! There is no single ‘best’ memory but one that sticks in my mind the most is the night a group of us at the campsite, stayed up dancing with the local breakdancers. They taught us some incredible moves (some are captured on video, so look out for them when you give it a watch!)
To sum up? Don’t take my word for it. If you’re sitting there, deliberating whether or not to do it – just say yes. You will not regret a single thing. My life has changed, irreversibly, for the better thanks to the Uganda Marathon. Thank you all, so much.
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