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.
A primary school teacher from the UK, Steve signed up as the event uniquely combined volunteering with running a marathon. Below, he chats about this, travelling solo, visiting a Ugandan primary school, and even how he got his pupils involved as well!
1. What made you sign up for the Uganda Marathon and was it what you expected?
I’m a Primary School teacher and I’m always looking for adventures and challenges which I can involve the children that I teach in and which will hopefully help to inspire them and plant a seed of adventure that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. I want to show them that there’s a big world out there for them to explore as they get older and that they can make a difference to the world around them. The Uganda Marathon immediately grabbed my attention and seemed to offer an experience like no other – the opportunity to live and work amongst the community in Masaka, to get involved in a variety of charity projects and hopefully the chance to make a real difference. On top of this, it was offering me the chance to run a Marathon through the villages in Masaka – something completely different.
The whole experience didn’t disappoint – in fact, it far exceeded anything that I could have expected. It was the most amazing week ever – with experiences and memories made that will last a lifetime!
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 & did you find it easy to meet people once you arrived in Uganda? Was it daunting?
It can often be quite daunting travelling alone but for me this just adds to the excitement of my travels, knowing that I’m going to meet some very interesting and like-minded people along the way – some of which will ultimately become friends for life. From the moment I landed in Uganda I was given the warmest welcome possible and was so very well looked after by the Uganda Marathon Team and the other competitors who couldn’t have been more friendly and welcoming. We soon became a sort of ‘Uganda Marathon Family’ all there for very similar reasons – to immerse ourselves in the African culture, play our part in a variety of Projects and to hopefully make a difference.
3. On Legacy Day, you visited Bugabira 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?
I chose the Bugabira Primary School as my legacy project as I’m a primary school teacher in the UK so schools and education are very close to my heart and is something that I feel every child should be entitled to. I also wanted to choose a Project that I could fully involve my pupils in – getting them collecting pens, pencils, paper, PE Kits and trainers which could be given to the pupils at Bugabira. Each of my pupils also wrote a postcard which were given to the children at the school.
The day spent at Bugabira Primary School was something very special indeed. We arrived and were given the most amazing welcome with singing and dancing and so many children wanting to speak with us and show us around their school of which they were very proud. After our tour though we had work to do – constructing 6 keyhole gardens that would enable the children and staff to grow food for their school meals. We then helped to build a netball court and a volleyball court – all very hard work in the heat of the day but so very rewarding with the help of the children. During the afternoon we were challenged to a football match by the children followed by a very competitive game of volleyball and netball.
Wow – what a day it was and great to be able to see the difference that our fundraising was making to the educational provision for these wonderful children, all of whom had huge aspirations. As we were preparing to leave I asked one of the young girls what her dream was. She replied that she wanted to be a doctor before adding ‘and I want to come back here and help cure my village from aides’. Wow!! Hopefully, our fundraising can help these very special children achieve their dreams!!
4. Could you tell us about the experience of Race Day? What was it like to run through the project you were fundraising for?
Yes – I signed up for the Full Marathon and this was simply the icing on the cake. The week had been so very special that I didn’t think anything could top it but Race Day just rounded the week off perfectly.
So many amazing people gathered together early on Race Day morning all with their own stories and motivations but united in wanting to make a difference. As the race started I didn’t quite know what to expect – but I was in for a real treat! Running through villages with children cheering, singing and dancing along the course. High fives galore, thumbs up and the biggest smiles imaginable around every corner! I also had the chance to run through the grounds of the Bugabira Primary School – the Project I was supporting and had visited earlier in the week. It was great to see the children again – running alongside us and cheering us on!
It was the most amazing race I have ever taken part in! My finish time didn’t matter at all – I wasn’t racing anyone – I was simply enjoying the journey and what a journey it was! The most amazing journey imaginable. I didn’t stop smiling and laughing the whole way around the course – I can’t wait to do it all again next year!!
5. Finally, what was your favourite memory from the 7-days, and how would you sum the week up for someone who hasn’t been?
It’s so hard to choose one favourite memory as there were so many amazing memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Meeting the fantastic Uganda Marathon Team, visiting Ddembe Home and meeting the wonderful children from the Smile Orphanage who welcomed us so warmly through song and dance, working together in our ‘Clans’ on the Upcycling Day, the privilege of spending the day with the wonderful children and staff at Bugabira Primary School and playing football and volleyball with them, the Kids Run Wild day was very special, taking an African Cooking Class and finally running the most amazing and enjoyable Marathon on the planet are all such very special memories which will stay with me forever!
For anyone considering this trip, I’d say just do it – you won’t be disappointed! Just prepare yourself for meeting the most amazing people and having the most memorable week of your life! It’s a life changing experience – I’ll certainly be returning in 2019!!