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 the first ever Uganda Marathon.
Lucy was one of our more experienced international runners and fantastic person to have on the trip. She already runs a charity in Tanzania so she could relate to a lot of the work being done as part of the Uganda Marathon. Check out her experience:
What made you sign up for the Uganda Marathon?
I happened upon the Uganda Marathon fairly late on and signed up within minutes of reading about it online- finally a marathon focussed on real fundraising, not a PB or creating another crowded road race. In fact, the warning on the website to not sign up expecting a fast time really appealed. I always run to fundraise and the running is simply a fun means to inspire generous donations. Another selling point was the location- in the middle of nowhere in a part of the world I already know and love. The fact that we were running for locally based projects makes so much sense and it was a huge bonus that I could fundraise for my own charity in Tanzania as well. It’s about time that profits from overseas visitors stayed in Eastern Africa and the local community benefitted from visitors coming to their region and the Uganda Marathon seems to work hard to ensure this is the case.
Was it what you expected?
I can honestly say I had no real expectations although I knew I was very excited! It was difficult to try and imagine camping on a hill and then running a marathon through totally unfamiliar terrain so I really just turned up and embraced it. I found the campsite really comfortable, except for when the 2 showers and toilets both stopped working and we all got stomach upsets- not nice!* I loved the tent but then everyone I was sharing with needed some more comfort and checked into a hotel- was it something I said!? The team were lovely and that is something I did know before arriving as they all communicated with us and answered our many questions beforehand via Facebook, email or phone- they really are wonderful people and it’s worth going just to meet them all! The week was a lot of fun and far surpassed everyone’s expectations!
(*UGM Note: There were issues within the campsite with the water running out. We are now fully aware of these and will be making very sure that sufficient clean water will be available for 2016! Further update 01/09/16: for our second event in 2016, we are pleased to report we solved these problems by arranging additional water deliveries, as well as the provision of extra shower and toilet facilities.)
Which projects did you choose to fundraise? Tell us about why you chose this project and your experience with them in Uganda
For me, it was all about the projects and we had a really incredible list to choose from. I chose to spilt my sponsorship between projects I run personally in Tanzania and Bugabira school just a stone’s throw from our ‘Athlete’s Village’ campsite. A group of us runners visited the school, totally unaware of what we would spend the day doing. After a treacherous descent down the hill, which, to my horror would form part of our marathon course, we arrived at the school to be greeted by lots of very happy looking children and their headmaster, Moses. Moses told us his inspirational story of how he worked hard to improve his fortune through education and is now helping more disadvantaged youths do the same. We listened to the children sing whilst others piled on our laps and posed for photos. I felt pretty saddened to see where the teenagers sleep four to a single mattress in bunks, wall to wall. How could they be so happy and healthy when this is all they have? Then, as if by magic, we saw the new rooms the marathon is funding where more bunks will give the students some space and allow Moses to take in more children, some orphaned and others too poor to pay for equipment and necessities.
So, our task was to start a chicken coup at the school to allow for increased yields and more food for the school lunches. It was blisteringly hot and we were faced with a huge pile of dusty red bricks to carry by hand up a hill to where others were busy digging the foundations of the coup. Gulp! So, several hours later, covered in red dust and sweat in what turned out to be a tougher day than the marathon, the bricks were ready to lay and it was time to return to camp for a bucket shower and well earned dinner. Since returning home we’ve seen the photos of the finished coup and it’s great to have been a part of something so simple but meaningful.
You came to the Uganda Marathon as one of our more experienced runners. How did you find the days leading up and what was your favourite part of the trip?
I’ve never thought of myself as an experienced runner but, yes, I have run a fair few marathons around the world now. Uganda was definitely different and that’s what I loved! We were a team- arrived and lived together, we trained, worked ate and camped together-all very cosy and made for a fascinating week getting to know so many inspiring, funny, friendly and just lovely people!
The days running up to marathon day were all fun filled and eventful! Each day starts with a group run before breakfast- essential to acclimatise as I felt like obese 75 year old asthmatic on the first run. Luckily a few of us managed to get separated from the group and did our own mini jog as Ellie’s boot camp sounded a little too emotional for me! After that first morning getting lost, I continued to run alone each morning and loved the freedom of it- sometimes I ran thought the trees and fields in the hills and other times I ran through the little villages, greeted by excited local children and dodging the cows and chickens along the path. I gradually got used to the air and felt like I could run normally. You can do as much or as little of the programmed activities as you want but I think we all did as much as we could. The best bits were working on the project and visiting the places benefitting from our sponsorship. First up was the vocational centre where deaf, blind and disabled 15-25 year olds are taught life skills and a trade in the fight against stigma and segregation.
I spent the morning knitting a beautiful woolly bobble hat with one of the residents. We had little English between us and the process of using a knitting machine is complicated but she carefully and patiently showed and demonstrated the process and didn’t get frustrated when I messed up! The project is simply incredible and is making a huge difference to the lives of disabled youth in Uganda.
What was your overall best memory of the Uganda Marathon and also how would you sum it up for someone who hasn’t been.
An absolutely wonderfully positive week and felt a tremendous sense of achievement at the end mixed with a little pang of sadness that it was all over! So many happy memories and it’s difficult to choose a favourite but I think one of the things that I enjoyed most was actually not part of the program. My tent and running buddy, Julie, and I decided to go for a walk each evening to explore the local villages and say hello to the locals. This turned out to be a really wonderful experience and seemed to delight the locals who all had a good stare at us and never let us pass without saying hello. Then one time we made the mistake of playing around with a couple of the children who came up to touch our skin. Next thing we knew we were surrounded by swarms of tiny little adorable, half dressed and sticky with mango. It was so much fun playing and just saying hello to such excited children- we smiled until it hurt but then realised we’d struggle to ever leave! If only we’d had a camera between us! Still, the energy and happiness of that time was unforgettable! This sort of encounter, in a way, summed up the whole experience for me of international runners joining this community and leaving lasting changes for the future.Let's get social! Stay up to date with amazing news and photos from Uganda, plus race tips and more: