The runners make the Uganda Marathon what it is. The friendships, the community, the fundraising and the determination to finish is why the UGM is truly a Race Like No Other. Here we tell the stories of the runners who took part in 2016 event, as they share their insights and experiences of the week-long adventure.
Here, Tarka & Carla write about their incredible adventure in Uganda. From their motivations for signing up, to where they volunteered, to their thoughts on their extension…Gorilla trekking the Rain Forest!
Then, to finish off, they give a very personal, detailed and truly special account of the big day itself (with photos): Race Day!
A big thank you to Tarka & Carla for writing such a great blog and for taking part in our event in June 2016. It was amazing to have you out in Uganda! 🙂
What made you sign up for the Uganda Marathon 2016?
We were looking for an exciting new experience that we could do together. We have a love for adventure as well as meeting new and interesting people, so the UGM was the perfect way to do all of that.
Was it what you expected?
No. It was better. We didn’t really know what to expect. We knew that we were going to be out in the sticks with a bunch of people all mad enough to go camping for a week in the Ugandan bush! But we weren’t expecting to make such great friends. We weren’t expecting the organisers to be such great hosts, and to have prepared so many fantastic activities for us to really experience the country.
What projects did you volunteer at during the week? Could you tell us about the experience?
We volunteered at the Bugabira School (painting the playground), Women’s Soroptimists, and MVRC. They were each different enough that we got a well-rounded idea of all the good work that the people of Masaka are trying to accomplish and how the UGM is helping them realise their goals of creating something sustainable.
You stayed in Uganda for a bit of extra time following the Marathon… what did you get up to? Can you tell us about your expedition in Uganda?
We went Gorilla Tracking which was absolutely one of our all-time most memorable experiences! The guides were really nice and professional and at no point did we feel like we were in any real danger. The only incident of nearly wetting ourselves, was when a 250kg male Silverback gave us a cautionary charge- just letting us know that he was the boss around there!
As told by our runners…the experience of Race Day…
“5am.. sun’s not risen yet and even the birds are quiet. All you can hear is the rustle of tent flaps,the creaking of bones and the stretching groans as people emerge from their tents, bleary eyed and nervous about the day ahead. I see our neighbor Kevin come out of his tent, we smile and nod good morning, not wanting to break the silence that hangs over the camp.
We laid everything out the night before but there’s still a moment of panic wondering whether we’ve forgotten anything important, like our running shoes…. we haven’t, so it’s off to breakfast where we know we aren’t going to be able to eat because no one wants to have to need the toilet at kilometre 15 in the middle of the bush. I manage a boiled egg and a piece of dried toast but still made sure to visit our scenic latrines before setting out.
As the predawn sky lightens so does the mood, it’s finally setting in, this is happening, this thing we’ve been talking about and preparing for and raising money for and dreaming about, it’s here, and we’re ready, or at least we pretend to be. I kept quiet for most of the bus ride down.
We got to the park where we’ll be starting and finishing, it looks great! Balloons, people, flags, people, music, people; so many people! There are only 150 international runners but about 2000 local runners from Uganda and neighboring countries who’ve come down for the race. The Africans seem at ease, dancing to warm up as the MC leads us through some warm-up routines to the beat of drums. There are runners in sandals, runners in business shoes, runners in jeans and a 3-piece suit. We look over-prepared with our taped knees, energy gels and orthopedic running soles.
The announcer calls us to the line, it’s time. And then we’re off, slowly at first as everyone tries to negotiate the mass of runners and find their pace but then the pace picks up as the pack starts to spread and people fall into their rhythm. There’s a lot of chatter and laughter in that first few kilometers, but at kilometer 3 it gets a lot quieter; we’ve reached our first hill and haven’t had a water station yet, but a sign tells us it’s just 400m ahead, or up.
The rest of the run is equal parts grueling and amazing, with people coming out of their homes and shops to cheer us on, cars stopping on the side of the street to honk at us and children holding our hands and running alongside. The sense of spirit is incredible!
21 kilometers seems to fly by and before I know it I’m about the cross the finish line. There are already people there cheering, people just like me, who’d flown halfway around the world to spend a week in rural Uganda with complete strangers and run what must be one of the most challenging courses there is. Crossing the finish line though I didn’t see strangers, I saw friends. Someone who had cried when we visited the women’s prison, someone who had asked to borrow mosquito repellent after being eaten alive, someone who had offered to help us pitch our tent. Such an amazing feeling! Such amazing people! Such an unforgettable experience!”
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