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 Charity Projects, to the community feel they give to Race Day.
Roland, Patries and 8 year old Jackie joined us as a family for the Week-long Adventure, and then after, went on one of our extension tours of Murchison Falls. They were looking for an event they could do together as a family, which offered running, but also much more: travel, a return to Africa and a chance to help a community.
Patries, the runner in the family, participated in the marathon event, with Roland, originally not planning to run, deciding to run the half-marathon in the days leading up to the race!
Read all about their adventure below, in what Roland sums up as: “the best family trip we have made, ever.”
1. What made you sign up for the Uganda Marathon? As a family trip, did it meet your expectations?
Patries: I did one of my first international marathons in 2018, got a real buzz from it, and was ready to do some more! The Uganda Marathon did not only tick the box of ‘international marathon’, but it also brought a lot more: our love for Africa, the opportunity to (re-)connect with the people, and most of all, the opportunity to do good for the community.
It is fair to say that initially, we had some concerns about safety and whether the trip would be suitable for an 8-year-old, but being reassured by the organising team and the people who had done the trip before, we decided to lock ourselves in and book the trip.
Are we glad we did it; did it meet our expectations? YES, YES and MORE THAN YES! What an experience… such friendly people, well organised, and a great way to get into the communities and learn from each other’s cultures.
Roland: Patries had done the Great Wall Marathon the year before (by herself) and, as these long-distance runners do, was looking for the next crazy run. When she found the Uganda Marathon and ran the idea past us to go as a family it was a very easy choice. I have some past connections to Uganda and Africa in general, and I was very excited to bring Jackie on this trip to show her how different life is for many people in the world, and how easy it is to make friends anywhere despite differences in culture, language and prosperity.
2. Could you tell us about your experience with the project, Premier Junior School Primary School, on Legacy Day?
Patries: All the projects we have done and visited during the week were absolutely eye-opening, and a great chance to get hands-on experience in the day-to-day life of people in Uganda.
During the day at the Premier Junior School we really felt part of ‘a day at school’, while working hard alongside the school people in building the chicken coop, running around with the kids teaching each other different games, preparing and sharing lunch, and getting a sticky beak in the kids’ education.
Roland: That was cool. I vividly remember when we arrived at the school, greeted by all the kids singing and dancing to welcome us. That was awesome. This chicken coop turned out to be a two-storey mansion and our team got stuck into it with gusto. I reckon that our project manager – the local tradesman – must have chuckled to himself at times, but we got the job done! It was heaps of fun working alongside the Ugandan team and the schoolkids. And Jackie was right in there too, helping to saw timber, carry tools, hand everyone the nails and at some point, I saw her working with the cooks to prepare lunch for everyone.
3. What was your experience of Race Day?
Patries: What an event … ! A true African party to begin with, to get us warmed up and all excited. During the run you never felt alone, either running together with many of the people and kids we met during the week, or being cheered on by the spectators in the crowds.
During the second lap of the marathon I had some tough moments, but then kids grabbed my hands and pulled me along cheering “go on Mama Jackie!”. What an inspiration! ☺
Roland: I never planned to run in the event at all because I’d be there with Jackie, cheering Mum and everyone else on in the race… but then Jackie had other plans when she discovered she had an opportunity to help look after the 1-year-old baby of one of the staff members on Race Day. So I ran the half marathon, and I’m so glad I did. The run offers a unique perspective of the communities in and around Masaka, and you’re being cheered on all the way by heaps of kids (shouting “Go Muzungu!”). My best memory was running through the school grounds of Bugabira school, with hundreds of schoolkids going mad for each and every one of the runners.
And Jackie? Well, after I finished my half marathon I went to pick her up, only to be told she was perfectly happy doing what she was doing with the baby, and I could just leave her to it, thank you.
4. In addition to the 7-day Adventure, you also participated in one of our extension trips to Murchison Falls. Could you tell us about some of your highlights?
Patries: A loooonnngggg trip (>11hrs drive), but an experience in itself and a way to see more of Uganda’s landscape and towns. I am still impressed by the driver, getting us safely to the lodge after a long and bumpy trip in the dark, having to push it to be in time before the gate closed.
Murchison Falls was a great way to relax and balance the “busyness” of the first week. The safari trips were amazing, seeing lions, elephants, hyenas, giraffes etc., while also enjoying a trip on and along the river with the many hippos and crocs. At night we could just let it all sink in, sipping a glass of wine at sunset with the hippo sounds in the background. Beautiful!
Roland: I loved having a few nights to ourselves in the beautiful park. The River Lodge is right next to the Nile where you can see and hear the hippos. The game drives and river cruise we did were great. Murchison Falls is very, very impressive to see. It was really good to have a few days to have some time to go over everything that we experienced during marathon week.
Jackie really enjoyed the park as well, particularly when we met another family there who had also done the Uganda Marathon, and who were travelling with kids that Jackie could connect with. On one of the game drives, we had Jackie and one of the younger boys in the back of the car with their heads sticking out looking for game and having an absolute ball!
5. Finally, for each of you, what was your favourite memory from the adventure?
Patries: My favourite memory is the feeling of connectedness and joy. While we all have such different lives, capabilities, opportunities, and cultures – we can all laugh and have so much to share!
Roland: My favourite moment… geez, that’s hard. I’ve been telling people back home that this has by far been the best family trip we have made, ever. It’s everything that Patries mentioned, plus the Africa experience that never ever gets boring. It’s the knowledge you’re actively helping people while doing something you love.
It’s seeing Jackie being quite comfortable in situations which are, as a matter of course, very foreign to her – after all, she’s only 8 years old. It’s seeing her make genuine connections with local kids even though they don’t speak the same language. And it’s knowing that she will carry these impressions with her and that it will change her understanding of things.
Jackie: My favourite moment was meeting Lorna (the 6-year old daughter of one of the local staff members – Ed.) at the Athletes’ Village. Oh – and planting my tree in the Mutuba plantation which I named “Rose” and which Elma, my local friend, will look after. Oh yes: and painting the sign for the EcoBrix collection point with my Mum, that was cool. And when we saw the elephant walking along the shore and scare the crocodile into the water. And riding in the mini-bus in the park with Sean looking for giraffe, elephant, buffalo, monkeys and lion! I didn’t so much like the walk up from the boat to the top of the waterfall because my legs were tired, but I did really enjoy sitting at the top of the Murchison Falls with my Mum and my Dad. And looking after Lottie the baby… that was my most favourite moment. I think.
A big thank you to Patries, Roland & Jackie for participating in this interview! Also, thanks to the Glass Passport Project, the Amstels, and marathon team members for sharing these great photos with us!