Caroline joined us for the event as she loves to combine running with travelling. She took on the full marathon event, visited a Ugandan project which works to fight malnutrition in schools, donated a ton of running shoes to the Masaka running community, and after the week, went Gorilla trekking in the Rain Forest.

Describing the race as “hands down my favourite marathon” and 7-days as “one of the best weeks of my life“, she returned from the adventure so inspired, she started writing her own blog about her travels and running. Below she kindly shares some extracts from her write up of the week, both from her blog and the race report she wrote for her running club, to give you an idea of what the Uganda Marathon event is all about!

  

Sunday 27th May: Arriving in Uganda

After [the collection from the airport, it was] a quick stop at the equator & an African massage (that’s driving on the African roads full of potholes)  we arrived at Hotel Brovad, my home for the next week. Time to freshen up & change, ready to go to the welcome party held at the Athletes Village where there was food, a bar where you could buy alcohol from whilst sitting around the campfire, and the chance to watch traditional African dancers.

 

Monday 28th May: Acclimatisation Day

Up early & met up with everyone to learn more about what the Uganda Marathon is all about & got to play some games to get to know each other a bit better. We then got placed into clans with people that have chosen the same Charity Project to support.

The first stop on our tour was Dembe House which helps give young people freedom from abuse and addictions, and we met some of the Street kids that are also supported by the UGM. Next was a walk into Masaka where we visited the local market, stopped at a local restaurant for lunch & the bank to get some Shillings as I didn’t get any at the airport.

 

Tuesday 29th May: See Your Legacy Day

The Recycling collection point, made out of plastics bottles, that the Nkima Clan built for a local school

Today we went off in our clans and in the morning we spent it making a recycling point that will go into a local school. In Masaka, they burn all of their waste including plastic bottles, so we were demonstrating that with some used bottles, cane and wood you could create something useful. They even let me lose with a machete so this was educational but fun too!

In the afternoon we went to a recycling centre where they are trying to collect the plastic bottles from Masaka’s streets. They compact them into bundles and send them to Kampala. In the afternoon we dug gardens and planted fruit trees – plants that will help to feed the local Street kids.

 

Wednesday 30th May: See Your Legacy Day 2

Today was spent at St Joseph’s School which is supported by the charity House of Love and Hope for Uganda. They work to ensure that no children go hungry while at school by providing free school meals. Last year the UGM provided the school with a freshwater well, which means the children no longer spend valuable time travelling to the water well and so have more time in the classroom. Turning up at the school that had over 300 excited children was overwhelming. The morning was spent building a keyhole garden that will be planted with fruit trees and plants that will help to feed the children.

 

Caroline and fellow volunteers with the Netball team from St Joseph’s School

 

In the afternoon we played netball with the children before just hanging out with them. Luckily we mixed the netball teams up, as if we had played against them, we would have been thrashed! They were all very, very good. One of the most heartwarming days I have ever spent and a day I’ll never forget.

My favourite moment of the day was when we popped into the classroom of the kids that had been helping us with the gardening and one of the kids had very cleverly made a pair of glasses out of the fencing wire we had been using. I had to get my picture with them as it was just so funny!

 

 

Thursday 31st May: KidsRunWild

KidsRunWild day! Running is still quite new in Uganda and so this day is great for the local children who come down to the centre of Masaka for a full sports day where there was races, tug of war & musical chairs. It’s an incredible day for the kids.

The afternoon was spent at Lake Nabugabo where you can chill out, swim in the lake and enjoy traditional Ugandan fish & chips. The fish was caught that morning in the lake and was delicious 😋.

 

Friday 1st June: Pool & Pasta Party

One of the local runners – proudly posing with his new shoes! Photo Credit: The Glass Passport

Today is a rest day in preparation for the marathon. I chose to spend it by the pool chilling. At 5:30 there was a pasta & pool party, with a local dance group performing whilst we eat our pasta (or gluten-free pasta). This was also an opportunity for people to go into town and get any last minute souvenirs or go out and visit any of the projects.

[Donations of running shoes from everyone at my club] were all taken to the local running shop so that the local runners that had entered either the 10k, half marathon or marathon could purchase them before the race. They are sold for only a couple of £’s but the idea is that when the runners buy them, it makes them feel like they have earnt them and so they respect them more than if they had been given to them as charity. All money from the sales goes back into the Uganda Marathon project.

 

 

 

Saturday 2nd June: Race Day!

The race started at 7am and so I was up at 5am for breakfast. The start was only a 5-minute walk from the hotel and so plenty of time to get ready and to the start. There was a 10K, half marathon and full marathon. As running is still quite new in Uganda most runners were completing the 10K. In total there were 1500 runners, only 250 of the runners for the marathon and out of the 1500 runners, 150 of them were internationals.

The race started slightly late and the marathon and half marathon runners set off on the course leaving Liberation Square and the town centre. The first few miles were flat and so I just concentrated on getting into a running rhythm and getting used to the heat. We were advised when signing up for the marathon to add 25% to our marathon time and so I knew that it was going to be a long day and that I needed to pace myself. After going past the Masaka District Administration Headquarters, we hit our first hill. Once I got to the top I felt out of breath but once I saw the view it was well worth it. A few more ups and downs and then we reached ‘The Steep hill’ where we could hear some noise from the bottom – once I had reached the bottom I was overwhelmed to see loads of children lining either side of the course shouting ‘winners, winners, winners!’ It was an amazing sound.

The course then headed back into Masaka and we went past St Joseph’s Primary School where I had spent my Legacy day days earlier – the memories of spending the day with the 300 children came flooding back to me and I could see the gardening project that we had done on that day. About 8 miles in we reached ‘The Beast’, which I had seen photos of this on the website and so knew what to expect and so walked up it, happy that I had reached the top with enough energy to carry on.

I was hoping that the rest of the lap was going to be downhill, but that was not the case. Not long after we reached another hill which they are going to name in the future ‘Heartbreak Hill’ as it really was! After that, it was a few more ups and downs and then we were back at Liberation Square and ready to start lap 2.

Lap 2 started well and I continued the same plan as lap 1 where I ran the straights and downhills and walked the steep up hills. Everything was going well until I reached ‘The Steep Hill’ where I slipped on the loose ground, falling I felt a sharp pain in both my knee and ankle, the next minute I had 2 medics and my friend Hat by my side making sure I was okay. My knee hurt but I was so determined to complete the race so I got up saying that all was okay and carried on with the course. For the next few miles, everything was okay but the 2nd time around ‘The Beast’ and ‘Heartbreak Hill’ felt that they were twice as long as the first lap. What was amazing on the 2nd lap is that at various points the local children would come up and grab your hand and run along down the street with you or they would just be cheering and saying “bye mzungu” (bye foreigner). After run walking the last few miles as my knee had swollen up I finally completed the race in 6 hours 31 minutes.

The race was won this year by a Kenyan national who completed it in 2:34. The fastest international completed the course in 3:04.

I would absolutely 100% recommend this race to anyone who is up for a bit of a challenge, hands down my favourite marathon and one of the best weeks of my life.

 

Looking back on the Adventure…

When I signed up for the Uganda Marathon, I wasn’t sure what to expect but the whole week exceeding all my expectations.

The Uganda Marathon is not just an event that happens once a year but a social enterprise that works with community-led projects in Masaka 365 days of the year, helping them to become self-sustainable and less reliant on external funding. Over the week we learnt so much about the projects and I feel that I really understood what drives the community and witnessed their determination to create change in their lives.

If any of you would like to hear more about the charity projects please feel free to ask me or feel free to have a look on my Facebook page.

 

 

 

A massive thank you to Caroline for joining us in Uganda and being such a brilliant participant, and for also sharing extracts of her blog with us. For her full write up on the week, and her experience of coming face-to-face with a family of gorillas on one of our extension tours, plus photos, videos and more, visit her blog here: Caroline Loves to Run and Travel.

Thanks Caroline, and all the best for your next Adventure! 🙂

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