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.
Cindy and Kevin were looking for an adventure that combined their different interests – her passion for running and his love for volunteering abroad. They discovered the 7-Day Adventure and it seemed like the perfect option. Below they chat to us about the Legacy Days, Race Day, Gorilla trekking and their favourite memories looking back on the week!
1. What made you both sign up for the Uganda Marathon and was it what you expected?
We were looking to do something that would bring together my love of running, Kev’s interest in volunteering abroad, and our shared passion for exploring new corners of the world. It was even better than either of us expected.
2. Could you tell us about your experience on the first Legacy Day in the week?
Kev loves a good building project and exhausting himself with tough garden work. I’m not really into those things so I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the Legacy Day. However, we got to meet and work alongside the founder and mentors of the charity we were going to support for the rest of the week and the day turned out to be superb fun and great for team building. We built and left behind a recycling skip for our charity, Youth with a Vision, and a new garden for the recycling centre.
3. What project did you choose to fundraise for and why? Could you tell us about your experience with the project and your visit to them on the second Legacy Day?
Kev & I chose Youth With a Vision because we were intrigued by the idea that a microfinance scheme could help local people under the age of 30 to start new businesses, while using the interest to fund schooling and meals for orphaned children.
We ended up spending three days during the week with John, the founder of Youth With a Vision. The primary activity was working in small groups to help potential microfinance beneficiaries to fine-tune their business plan applications while also providing business development advice to previously successful applicants.
At first, we weren’t sure how much help we would be. No one in the group knew much about farming or brick making or selling goods in village markets. However, we soon realised that each of us brought ideas from business or teaching or philanthropy and we made a great Dragon’s Den team!
4. What was it like to participate in the 10K event through rural Uganda? In the end, Kevin, originally planned on spectating, joined you too, Cindy!?
Having run 11 marathons already, I was excited to challenge myself with the altitude and terrain. The pictures of ‘The Beast’ looked incredible and I wanted to compare the experience to Boston’s infamous Heartbreak Hill. In the meantime, Kev kept sending emails to UGM HQ reminding them that he was NOT a runner and would only be spectating! In the end, I injured my neck so we both arrived in Masaka planning to spectate.
During the week, I felt sad being among all the international and local runners getting ready for the big day, knowing I’d be on the sidelines. So Kev talked to one of the UGM team and came up with the idea for us to walk the 10k together. This was an amazing gesture as Kev smokes a pack a day and doesn’t even own a pair of trainers!
Nonetheless, he walked/jogged the full 10k in his sandals and even sprinted past me to collect his first-ever race medal. Even though I didn’t have the marathon I originally imagined, it was more special because we experienced the week and the race and the finish line together. Afterwards, Kevin was like the pied piper hanging out with at least 40 kids, cheering the longer-distance runners through the finish line and treating them to apples and ice cream.
It was an incredible moment when 75-year old Bob, the final finisher, came running into sight at dusk, flanked by local kids and tooting horns. He got a standing ovation around the campfire that night and both of us might have walked back to the hotel with a little tear in our eye.
5. After the week, you participated in the Gorilla Trek. Could you tell us a highlight from this and sum up the experience?
We watched a mother gorilla cradling and playing with her baby, no more than two feet away from us! It’s not the zoo and it’s more than safari. You are on their turf, hanging out in the middle of the forest, trying not to get in their way. There are no words.
6. Finally, for each of you, what was your favourite memory from the adventure?
My favourite memory was in the middle of the 10k. We passed a mother hanging clothes on her washing line along the side of the road. After a few more paces, we heard a baby crying and it sounded like it was coming from the basket at her feet. Never one to leave a child in a bad mood, Kev turned around and ran back. I’ll never forget the look on that mother’s face as he calmed the child, gave the mother a big hug, and ran back towards me with a giant smile. For me, that moment perfectly captured the spirit of the whole experience and the Uganda Marathon.
Kev was struck by how many people have so little, dealing with a generation lost to wars and AIDS, and yet are so focused on selflessly devoting their lives to help their extended families and even their whole community to prosper. Really, the UGM is all about the kids and helping them to reimagine their future.