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.
Jean-Louis (JL) was one of our first participants to join us on the adventure whilst still attending university. Below he tells us about signing up and juggling the costs of uni, what Ugandan project he chose to fundraise for and why, and also about his visit to Eco Brixs – a recycling initiative trying to deal with the problem of plastic waste in rural Uganda.
Describing it as a “once in a lifetime trip”, here’s his account of the week…
1. What made you sign up to the Uganda Marathon and was it what you expected?
I was looking for my next sporting challenge online, tempting with the idea of an ultra marathon, but I then stumbled across an advert on Facebook advertising the Ugandan Marathon and how it was a “race like no other”. As I’m someone who really enjoys volunteering work and also pushing my boundaries, I thought this sounded too good to be true! Once I checked out a few videos on YouTube and read some reviews from other runners, I was sold!
As I am a student and always tight on money, it did take me a little while to commit to the project initially. But after sending a few emails to the lovely guys and girls at the Uganda Marathon HQ, we managed to come up with a payment plan and even a cheeky bit of student discount to make sure that I was able to get involved in the project (Thank You!).
I wasn’t really too sure what to expect with the volunteering days before I arrived, but every day turned out to be a true blessing and such an emotional rollercoaster, full of laughter, tears and bonding with some beautiful souls from around the globe. The marathon itself was extremely well organised and put together. It had everything you’d normally expect to see along with a pinch of African spice mixed in 😉 The whole crew really looked after all of us throughout the journey and even the locals were so welcoming and supportive throughout the day.
Words can’t do this journey any justice, as so many beautiful memories and events took place in such a short amount of time, you really do have to sign up and witness it for yourself to see what I mean.
2. What Charity Project did you choose to fundraise for? What was it was like to visit the organisation on Legacy Day?
I chose to fundraise for Ssunga maternity ward as I really wanted to help the mothers in the local village have a clean and hygienic visit to the ward when they deliver their bundles of joy! I think every women should have the right to be safe and stress-free when delivering a baby, so I was hoping to make a difference to their lives as much as I could.
It was an eye-opener to visit the health centre on our Legacy Day and it really did make you appreciate everything that we have in the “western” world. The sister in charge was so knowledgable, kind and welcoming to us all, even though they are struggling daily with a lack of resources and trying to keep up with high demand for the service. I’ll never forget our time there, and I’m really hoping I’ll be able to help in the near future when I return again to Uganda!
3. What was it like to visit the Community Recycling Centre, part of the initiative in Masaka to deal with the problem of plastic waste?
I choose to visit the Community Recycling Centre as I’m a keen environmentalist and I love any initiative on how to reduce, reuse or recycle plastic waste. I was super impressed with what they had designed with such limited funding and supplies, I won’t ruin it for you but the man behind the business idea is a very clever man indeed! It was truly heartbreaking to see so much plastic waste in and around such a beautiful country, but it’s great to see that there are people who care enough to dedicate their time to coming up with and implementing incredible initiatives to tackle the issue! It’s defiantly worth a visit when you’re there.
4. Could you tell us about your experience of Race Day and running the marathon in rural Uganda?
Race day was pretty special! A big warm-up in front of the stage with all the runners and a few special guests to get us pumped. We then set off around the course, which is not one to be taken lightly! It’s full of hills throughout, with one HUGE one which they have quite rightly dubbed “The BEAST”. Capital letters are necessary for this one as it really is a monster of a hill to run up, and if you’re doing the full marathon you have to do it twice!! Aside from that, the locals will cheer you on throughout, with some even joining you for several kilometres if you’re lucky! There are plenty of water stations and some incredible views around Masaka which you’d never normally see!
5. Finally, what was your best overall memory from the 7-day Adventure, and would you recommend it?
One of my favourite memories from the trip was running around Masaka with the whole crew handing out leaflets to the locals whilst there’s a man driving a car with two massive speakers on the roof, making noise and disturbing the whole town to promote the upcoming event to the local people! It was crazy to see and something which we definitely couldn’t get away with back in the U.K, but it was so cool to be a part of and it made the build-up to race day even more special!
There are countless other special memories throughout the week, too many to mention. I just urge you to experience this once in a lifetime trip which I can honestly guarantee that you will not regret. I’ve learnt, I’ve laughed, I’ve cried and I will never forget you Uganda. I’m coming back once I graduate from University and that’s a promise 🙂
A big thank you to JL for participating in this interview! Also, thanks to the Glass Passport Project, JL, and marathon team members for sharing these great photos with us!