A year ago in December, I made the decision to take on a challenge in 2015. I was going to run the Uganda Marathon.

I’d dabbled in running now and then, but I was far from a ‘seasoned runner’. Neither was I particularly fit at the time- a gym member, yes, but in name only.

But when I heard about the prospect of the Uganda Marathon, it felt like too good an opportunity to miss. Despite my nerves, I decided to take the plunge

…And the good news is…on May 24th 2015, I crossed the finish line and completed the Uganda Marathon!

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Me (on the right), feeling pretty tired, but chuffed and feeling a big sense of achievement having just completed the marathon!

Now, twelve months after signing up and six months after race day, I reflect on what a big (and surprising) impact the marathon has had on my entire year.

It’s definitely made 2015 one to remember…

Getting Fit & Training

After I signed up, the first thing I knew I had to do was to start training, especially as I was out of shape. The initial target: to run 3K. And WOW…did that feel like a long way!

But once I settle into a routine, things started to became easier and gradually I was able to increase the distances I was covering. Eventually I reached 5K, then 10K, and so on.

Before I knew it, I was actually starting to enjoy running and becoming engaged with it. I was setting targets to improve.

Having the marathon booked kept me motivated, and even better, small runs were adding up and I was getting fitter!

And a nice bonus too: regular exercise was helping me to feel energized throughout the rest of my week.

Training

Over the four months I gradually built up the distance I could run, experimented with hill training, wearing layers on runs (to prepare for the climate) and ran my first ever half marathon race!

Fundraising for a Great Cause

Shortly after beginning my training, the next step was to set up my fundraising page and start fundraising.

Originally I was a little concerned I wouldn’t be able raise very much, but once I started telling people I was running the marathon and posting about it on Facebook, the donations started rolling in. People were more than willing to give to a good cause, in support of an epic challenge!

I discovered there were plenty of ways to boost my fundraising too (and had some of the most fun doing these!) with things such as cake sales, raffles and fancy dress days in my office at work. These were not only fun to do and helped raise some cash, but brought a smile to my colleagues’ faces too.

Quickly, you become motivated to meet your target and it’s nice knowing every pound you do manage to raise, helps make a difference to someone else’s life. At the same time, you’re raising awareness too.

Additionally I felt supported by the UGM team as I tried to reach my target. They gave tips, advice and even set up a pub quiz to help kick start everyone’s fundraising.

Activites

There’s lot you can do to boost you’re fundraising, from Facebook posts to fundraising activities- all which were good to do!

The Six Day Adventure

Before I knew it, May had arrived and after months of training and fundraising, it was time to travel to Uganda! And the six day experience didn’t fail to disappoint!

In short, the week was eye opening, inspiring and a lot of fun. From the experience of travelling to Africa for the first time, to seeing Ugandan life up close, and actually meeting the people I was fundraising for.

Then there was the highlights of volunteering at a project of our choice on ‘Make a Difference Day’ and marshalling at the kids races, as the UGM hosted a big community sports-day event on ‘Kids Run Wild Day’.

Finally, on day six was race day- it was a special day to run side-by-side with Ugandan and international runners, running for various projects and charities. Topped off by the buzz in the local community, astounding views and the feeling of crossing the finish line, it was a very special day indeed, which capped off an amazing week.

It was six days which gave me some amazing experiences, memories of a lifetime and where I made new friends too!

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Race Day topped off an excellent week of travel, volunteering and meeting new people.

Extending My Trip in Uganda

After the six day adventure, I was lucky enough to be able to extend my time in Uganda. In the following week alongside some of the other runners, I went on a safari, a boat ride on Lake Victoria and even Gorilla trekking in the rainforest.

Afterwards I returned to Masaka where I volunteered at various projects. This included building, assisting at a clinic and doing some teaching at Youth with a Vision, the project where I previously volunteered at on ‘Make a Difference Day’. Inbetween, I even managed to squeeze in a visit to Rwanda for a few days!

All more fantastic memories on top of marathon week!

Uganda Wildlife

The week after the marathon gave me time to do some additional sightseeing whilst I was in Uganda.

Running, Socials and Joining the Team

In late June I returned to the UK, when I assumed my ‘Uganda Marathon Adventure’ had come to an end. But the UGM team put on several events/activities in the second half of the year to maintain the community it had built through the event.

Over June to September, the UGM held the ‘Park Run Tour’, where UGM team members and runners met at a different Parkrun each Saturday in the London area. This was a great excuse for me to continue running post-marathon (which I’d discovered I actually quite enjoyed during training), and also a way to keep in contact with new made friends, over a coffee afterwards.

The UGM also hosted two events since the marathon. In July they hosted a reunion in Central London, which was a brilliant opportunity to see fellow international runners and reminisce over the experiences had. For many, it was the first time many had seen each other since saying goodbye in Uganda.

Likewise the UGM held a similar event in November, which was part reunion, part welcome to new runners for 2016. It provided us with an update on progress in Masaka and the chance to hear from some other inspirational organisations- all whilst having a beer and a catch up.

World-Changing-Ideas

At UGM’s ‘World Changing Ideas’. we heard from a number of inspirational organisations: Escape the City, Say Yes More, Land of Ed, Movember & Project Awesome.

Then November saw one final door open from deciding to run the marathon. I was offered the opportunity to be part of the team who will be going out to Uganda next year to help organise the event, and do the blogging for the charity’s website too (which came about from doing a training blog in 2015). So now, the decision I made in late 2014 is shaping up to make 2016 a pretty exciting year too!

2015- An Epic Year!

If I had to pick a favourite week for 2015, it would have to be marathon week, just for the excitement of visiting a new country, volunteering at the projects, meeting so many new people, and the absolute buzz of race day!

But it brought so much to my year other than the (incredible) six days, from the fun and challenge of training and fundraising, to extending my trip in Africa, to being part of the UGM community. I signed up for a six days, but it proved to be so much more.

So in some anticipated ways and some less anticipated ways, my decision a year ago to run the Uganda Marathon made 2015 a pretty incredible year.

Here’s to 2016.

 

If you would like a more detail account of my experiences during the Six Day adventure itself, I wrote a blogs series over the summer dedicated to the week. Race Week Part 1, Part 2 and Race Day. Thanks for reading & Happy New Year! 🙂

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