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It’s 7 o clock in the morning, the first light of dawn is starting to spread over the green parkland of liberation square and nearly a thousand runners from all over the world are gathered at the starting line to run the first ever Uganda International Marathon.
What started as a dream for 3 Londoners, looking to quit their city jobs to go and do something crazy, became a reality on May the 24th as the starting gun fired for the race that they’d been planning for the past 9 months. This wasn’t just a race, not just a marathon, but a 6-day adventure in a rural, hardly visited, phenomenally beautiful and amazing part of Uganda.
For a continent that has continuously produced Olympic gold medallists, World Record breakers and running superstars, Africa has relatively few marathons. The largest would almost certainly be the South Africa Big Five Marathon, then there are a few scattered around West Africa, but what makes The Uganda Marathon special is the strength of the community behind the race, and the 6-day adventure that is the build up.
Uganda Marathon Image 4In the run up to the race, the runner’s “tapered” by visiting the community projects that the Marathon supports through fundraising. Having signed up for the race, they got to choose from 8 projects to fundraise for. Ranging from a program to help elderly men and women, who have no family left, sustain themselves and afford to eat, to a local school that takes disadvantaged kids and orphans off the street to give them an education. Whichever project they chose to support, the runners were able to go and see the project in action and find out first hand exactly where their money is going.
This then culminated in a tough 13.1 mile course that the runners of the full marathon had to complete twice. Over the 26 miles of trail running the course elevated over 1.3 km, with a mixture of steep rises long uphill slogs, tricky downhill descents… but all over the most beautiful scenery that you can imagine!
But whilst they felt new emotions, previously not thought possible, there’s no lack of distractions along the route. The small dirt trails wind their way past schools, churches in full song and local families, who were all out in force waving and smiling the runners through the route. There is no pick-me-up that Lucozade can produce that rivals an African child running alongside you or high fiving you along the route, whilst not great pacers, the enthusiasm towards the race is what makes the Uganda Marathon one of the greatest on the planet.
The other highlight is the scenery. When you think of Africa, many people think of dusty, rolling plains, deserts and canyons. Uganda is one of the lushest places in the world and the greenery on the course is breath-taking! The course snakes through the farmland of the rural areas of Masaka, through Maize fields, greenery and even a stork farm, it’s certainly far from any city marathons! After one of the longest, most difficult hills, you’re rewarded with an amazing 360 view of the area. On a nice day, from the top of Pine Ridge, you can see all the way to Lake Victoria, the source of the Nile!
As the route then turns from Pine Ridge for the home straight, through Masaka town and into liberation square. The runners were greeted with a procession of locals, schools, families, and almost everyone in the town who wasn’t running, cheering them past the finish line! It was an amazing way to finish an incredible week in Africa.
The mission of the marathon is to discover amazing new lands and give back to communities through sport! None of this could have happened without the incredible involvement of the local community and in return we raised over £70,000 in fundraising for local Masaka projects, the 2nd highest fundraising event in Ugandan history.
If you are interested in learning more about this event or tempted by 2016, then come and check out the Uganda Marathon website for more information and pictures!