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.
Dale joined us after looking for ‘something different’ to celebrate his 50th birthday. Then, following the event, won our competition to return in 2019! Below he tells us about this, the race, the week’s volunteering, and his favourite memories from Uganda!
1. What made you sign up for the Uganda Marathon?
I was looking to do something different for my 50th birthday and decided to run a marathon abroad. After seeing the Uganda Marathon on Facebook and reading all the testimonials of previous year’s participants and how you get involved with the projects first-hand, it seemed a no-brainer.
2. You successfully fundraised the most in the month following the event and won a free place for 2019! Congratulations!! What was it like to fundraise for the Uganda Marathon? Do you have any advice for future participants?
The fundraising is much easier than I thought, due to the fact that there is no minimum amount to be raised. Once I explained to friends and work colleagues that I was actually doing some voluntary work while over there and about the project I was fundraising for, most people were actually impressed and kindly donated. After all, most people can spare 5 pounds which to us is not much but a huge amount to the projects.
3. Could you tell us about the volunteering aspects of the week and what this involved?
The first day we all did upcycling and created a storage container in our clans [for the projects to use in the future]. This was great fun and we all worked together very well. We also created our individual garden plots which involved digging, planting and decorating our gardens.
The next day we went to Villa Maria Hospital, which was very emotional as we visited all of the different wards. It was amazing to see how much they achieve with such primitive equipment. Our clan repainted the outside walls and metal railings of one of the wards. There was also a classroom on site and we got to meet the amazing schoolchildren who were so happy and well behaved.
We visited the gallery which was humbling. The amazing creative works were for sale. The sports day was the most fun, all of the children playing games, dancing and racing with each other. We all joined in and the children were so happy to see us and again – they were so well behaved it was unbelievable!
The 7-Day Adventure not only managed to do this, but it gave me a lifetime experience that I will never forget. This has to be the most amazing thing I have done and given me memories that I will never forget. Uganda has definitely left its mark on me. It is truly a remarkable country and the people make you feel so welcome.
5. You ran in the marathon event on Race Day – could you tell us about the experience?
The earlier morning rise on Race Day and seeing the sunrise at the start is truly something worth seeing. With so many locals and other runners turning up and making you feel very welcome and easing the pre-race nerves. I had decided that I was going to take my time and take in all the wonderful scenery that Masaka has to offer which did not disappoint.
The first mile was not too bad and I thought what was all the fuss about? How wrong was I! Once you get out of the main town and start heading off into the countryside, you get to see some lovely views. However, the pathways and the red clay roads certainly take their toll on you. The running terrain is certainly rough and every corner you turn there is a hill. The famous hill called ‘The Beast’ did not disappoint and lived up to its reputation, only to be followed by heartbreak hill (need I say why it was called that!?).
The most amazing thing was there were times when you were on your own and then you’d turn a corner and run through the little villages and there was so much support from the locals and the young children – who would run with you for a little while!
6. Finally, what was your favourite memory from the 7-days and how would you sum the week up for someone who hasn’t been?
There are so many good memories to chose from. The two best ones were: firstly, helping out at the hospital – the Sisters were brilliant and to see some of the conditions was truly heartbreaking. But all the Sisters and patients were truly remarkable making us feel welcome. We even got the local taxi driver to help out!
Secondly, the sports day will live in my memory forever too. With all the children who actually have nothing made us feel welcome and lets us join in on their sports day. I felt quite privileged to be able to join in and help these children to have such a wonderful day – yet another tear-jerking day.
This is definitely an experience you will not want to miss and will definitely leave its mark on you. I personally can not wait to go back.