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.
Phil joined us from the English Midlands to take part in the event. A teacher and keen runner, he shares his insights of Race Day and what made him decide to sign up to the event. He also tells us about what it was like to attend the event solo, and how he made his decision of which Charity Project to support!
1. What made you sign up to the Uganda Marathon and was it what you expected?
I put in my annual London Marathon ballot place entry as usual last year, and when I didn’t get a place, yet again, I thought I would look at doing a more interesting and challenging marathon elsewhere. This marathon had popped up on my Facebook timeline a few times and I thought it looked fascinating. It seemed to offer so much- a challenging run, a chance to get to know and understand a bit more about how another society/culture worked, and a chance to meet some like-minded people and to do something that benefitted a local community. I felt that I would be making a more lasting impact than I would on another flat big city marathon. It also just about fitted in to the UK Spring Bank Holiday leave period, so I knew I would be able to get the time off work.
I had run a similar marathon in Rwanda previously and had some idea of what to expect from the course – dusty roads, great support from local people, hills, heat and beautiful scenery. The race itself lived up to all of these expectations and the hills were as tough as I had anticipated! The experiences in the week leading up to the race definitely surpassed my expectations- we were immersed in the local culture, and got such amazing insights into the lives of local people.
2. You chose to fundraise for Jomain Midland Academy. Could you tell us about why you chose this project and what it was like to visit the organisation on Legacy Day?
I chose Jomain Midland Academy for a number of reasons – I am a teacher and feel that education is an essential key to success in life. It felt important to me that I fundraised for a school, and I also knew that my colleagues at work would be very open to supporting my fundraising for a school project. There were a number of schools on the list of supported projects. A further pull for me was that Jomain was in such a remote place, at the far end of an island on Lake Victoria. It felt like it would be very off-grid. Also, a bit randomly, I live in the English Midlands and felt a connection with the school’s name.
Visiting Jomain was a fantastic experience. It was a very early start to get there, travelling through some beautiful countryside and with a ferry crossing to the island. The hospitality we received from the children and staff at the school was amazing and we were given such an insight into their lives. It was also great to see directly how investments in the school project would be spent, and what a difference this might make. Seeing the sunset over Lake Victoria on the way back was stunning!
3. Many of our participants sign up for the event in groups or with their partner. However, you travelled to Uganda on your own – how did you find this?
Travelling on my own was not a problem at all at any time! Plenty of people were doing this. Before flying out to Uganda a number of us were linked via Facebook. I got to meet some of the other runners in the UK in the months leading up to the marathon week. I bumped into another runner at Istanbul Airport en route and then met up with others in Entebbe before travelling to Masaka. Everyone was very friendly and we all bonded very quickly as we were immersed in so many new experiences. The organisers were excellent at facilitating this.
The marathon itself was fantastic. It was well marshalled with plenty of drinks stations, route signs and lots and lots of very enthusiastic local support. The route was challenging but beautiful, taking you through some local countryside and villages, without ever feeling too remote. There was a great range of ages and abilities amongst both the local and International Runners. For those who were seasoned runners, there was enough competition to keep you working hard, and for those who were new to the distance, there was plenty of support and encouragement to keep you going. It felt very well organised, friendly and inclusive but it was also a very tough challenge.
5. Finally, what was your best overall memory from the 7-days?
From a running perspective it was great to complete the first circuit of the marathon route, knowing exactly what I was going to encounter in the second 13 miles, knowing that I had ‘The Beast’ and ‘Heartbreak Hill’ to climb again! It was also wonderful to get to the finish line at the end of the run and feel that sense of accomplishment.
More important though, are the memories of the people I met, the amazing places visited and the experiences I had – whether eating local food such as matooke, being welcomed by the staff and children at Jomain, the dance and cultural experiences, sitting round the campfire at the Athletes’ Village drinking Nile Special Beer, watching the kids run an egg and spoon race on the Sports Day or the training runs with Masaka Runners’ Club around town in the days leading up to the race.
The Uganda marathon should be on everyone’s to-do list!
A big thank you to Phil for participating in this interview! 🙂 Also, thanks to the Glass Passport Project, Phil, and marathon team members for sharing these great photos with us!