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.
Emily, a Secondary School PE Teacher from the UK, signed up to the Uganda Marathon as she was looking for an adventure which fitted in with her school holidays. She didn’t know anyone when she signed up, but she didn’t let that stop her! Below she talks about meeting her fellow runners, visiting a Ugandan primary school, the marathon and her favourite memories from the week!
1. What made you sign up for the Uganda Marathon and was it what you expected?
I signed up because I wanted an adventure and to do a race in Africa as part of my seven continent challenge. The race suited me as I’m a teacher and it fitted in with my school holidays. The race looked like a fantastic week of fun and an adventure – not just a race. I wanted to do some project work, meet like-minded people and experience a less touristy approach to Uganda.
The race was so much more than I expected. After a week of training runs, making new awesome friends, project work and cultural visits, I had totally forgotten I had come to run a marathon come race day. The marathon course was awesome and had a great ‘social friendly’ feel to it because we had all spent a week out there. Every time you ran past someone or came to a water station, you knew them so you could have a chat and it made the miles fly by!
2. Many of our runners signed up in groups or with their partners. However, you signed up on your own – how did you find this and did you find it easy to meet other participants?
I went and did the ‘UGM Thames 20-miler’ training run in London before the event, which was a great decision as it gave me the opportunity to get to know some of the staff and participants before the event.
Once arriving in Uganda everyone was really welcoming. Making friends was easy as we had lots of group activities to get to know each other. The fire pit was a great comfy place to kick back, have a few drinks and get to know people as well. We were separated into clans based on the project we had chosen to raise money for, so this gave us a little team – each group had a fantastic clan leader looking after them that we could go to if we needed anything or had any questions.
3. On Legacy Day, you visited Bugabira Primary School, the project you fundraised for and ran the race for. Why did you choose this project, and could you tell us about your experience with them in Uganda?
Our day at Bugabira was incredible and a day I will never forget! Upon arrival, we were sung to and rushed by hundreds of excited children eager to meet us. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming! I was shocked by the cramped conditions in the boarding houses and amazed how this didn’t phase the children – they were still so happy and grateful. We built some keyhole gardens while at the school, as well as a volleyball court and netball court.
We then had some lunch in a classroom which again was an eye-opening experience. While having lunch I took a look through some of the students’ workbooks and the quality of work was amazing! These primary school children had better handwriting and took more detailed notes in lessons than most of my GCSE and A-level PE students back in the UK! This just really emphasized to me the drive to do well and learn which each child and staff member at the school had. They had very basic facilities, yet were some of the most motivated people I’ve ever met, all ambitious and wanting to succeed in life. I couldn’t but think about how even more successful these kids would be if they were to come to my school in the UK where they would have amazing resources and facilities to utilise. This all just inspired me to raise more money to help give them the funding to improve their facilities and resources.
After lunch, we played Volleyball and Netball on the new courts we had built. This was great fun – there was some intense competition between Bugabra and the away ‘mzungu’ teams!
On race day, It was fantastic that the route went through the primary school so we got to visit again. Each time you ran past, the kids were cheering and hi-fiving you as you ran through.
4. You participated in our 42K event. Could you tell us about the experience of Race Day and running a marathon in Uganda?
The course has a buzz like no other marathon I’ve run, everyone is so friendly. It was a fantastic experience to get to meet and run it with so many local runners.
A highlight for me has to be the children on the course that just run up to you, grab you by the hand and run along with you, encouraging you to keep going and to run faster.
‘The Beast’ is an absolute killer of a hill especially on the second lap, but the views are well worth the climb!
When you get to the finish line, all your newly made friends are there to cheer you in and to celebrate with you. The finish has a great party atmosphere! Even though I had just run a marathon, I still found the energy to get up and dance on the mobile stage!
5. Finally, what was your favourite memory of the 7-days?
The week really is an eye-opening adventure. My favourite memory has to be just sitting around the campfire at the Athletes’ Village after dinner, talking, laughing and making new like-minded, adventurous, friends.
Another favourite memory has to be doing the promo runs throughout the week through town, and the madness and excitement of them! Running through the village handing out flyers, advertising the event to all the locals.