Szilvi`s post is HERE about how the Uganda Marathon was done, but I`m up for the challenge to present you my side to be better than hers but it might be just a long one to bore you. We ran the race last year it and it was a game-changer. This year? We helped running the event. Even better!
We're already in Uganda days before the race week. Meetings in the mornings then everyone was cracking on their actual duties, putting together the logistics, organising transports, preparing the projects, building the Athlete's Village, getting a load of fire wood, etc. We even pre-tested the upcycling day's project and built our own recycling collection point which later functioned as the bar.
Then we were there, at the airport in Entebbe. Faridah, Adam, Szilvi and me, the "airport crew". After a 3-hour drive early in the morning, we were welcoming the runners as they arrived by different flights throughout the day and sent them to the Athlete's Village by our transports. Exciting, nervous sometimes very tired faces. Long day.
But after this, everything sped up: the first night sipping beer together by the campfire which repeated itself every night. Morning- and evening training runs, promo runs. I Got my clan, the Mpologoma (Lions) and with fellow team members (Andrew and Johnson from Uganda) we looked after them and made sure they can participate and enjoy the Legacy Day (visiting Bugabira School and building keyhole gardens), the tour in the town, the upcycling day (building and gardening using plastic waste). Also there was a fun day with the kids (Kids Run Wild), some relaxation by a lake and next day by the swimming pool before the race and luckily a big bunch of people loved the nature walk and the cooking classes, too.
The longest day for the "Race Team" (me included) was spent with painting and putting out the signs and the water on the course, building the Start/Finish line, you know, getting the marshals and medics ready, preparing everything for a smooth and safe race, etc...and finally:
Race Day. It was incredible. Early wake up (before 4am) to get the “Hotel Brovad runners” ready with Ian and Szilvi, then we were on the way to the Liberation Square to start the warm up with head torches still on. Then I took a boda (motorbike taxi) to get to the first highway roundabout to make sure the marshals and the police are there and everyone knows what to do in order to provide a safe crossing (we had to stop the traffic) for the happy runners. I didn`t see the start, so, for me it didn`t feel like anything, like nothing. A race, it`s quite. But when I got the message in the group on WhatsApp that the "Runners are moving to the start line" then "The race has started” that`s when it kicked in. Wow!
It was so much fun. Later I was on a boda again to go to cover another area and I got stuck by the first roundabout leading in town because of its hectic nature but it turned out to be fun to cheer on the runners and to be a friendly face in their low times. Here I became a local attraction for bystanders as the mzungu who runs up and down, cheers the runners on loudly and clapping like crazy in the middle of the road.
The race is only a small part of the whole adventure but still this makes it a whole lot more of a proper experience. These runners from young to old, from hobby joggers to pro runners are all legends. It's a tough course and a unique week not to mention the best. I was touched how many runners thanked me personally for the whole week, for being looked after and for making it to be one of their best weeks.
The UGM Team
A truly brilliant team. Professional, caring with true passion about Uganda. Also a very strong community on a pro level. They don't only see a good challenge in organising the whole marathon week but they really want to leave something behind. A legacy.
As they described it: when it all started a few years back it was just a bunch of friends trying to deal with all the struggles which came with organising such a huge event. Now they became a professional team and everything went smoothly. I picked the right year to join. Haha.
Henry (Director) turned out to be a cool guy. The way he interacts with the team and with the locals, the way he operates the whole system and delegates tasks are nicely balanced between being absolutely professional and a passionate human being or even a friend. Once I saw him randomly racing with a dozen kids at Bugabira School during a project visit, so definitely a cool surprise.
Though I was welcomed with a hug by the team and by previously and newly made Ugandan friends it wasn't easy to fit in but it was completely down to me. Picking up the tasks, getting to know the system and catching the rythm was one thing. But for some reason in a new environment it takes time for me to open up. Especially if it's an English speaking community. I have to admit I can be still a bit intimidated.
I admire people who can be absolutely casual immediately in new situations and are able to find common ground in no time. It's a skill or even a superpower (Julia and Ben, yes, I`m talking about you! )
The ugandan girls adored Szilvi. They were holding her hands quite often, which is a sign of appreciation and as I just learnt it, it is very disrespectful to let it go. You hold hands until both decide to end it. Even true between men. Expressing feelings is way more natural there.
I'm extremely proud of Szilvi. She used to be crap at organising anything even her own life and she had a lack of self-belief. As she (and I) pushed herself she got better and better. Now she is ahead of me in proactivity (ok, not always), organisational skills and sometimes in confidence, too. I have to pull myself together. Haha.
She worked her ass off (sometimes stressed it off, too) as the Head Of Runner Happiness. Definitely a huge step in her own personal development. Hands down, she's awesome!
We had so many brilliant people from all around the world and we got impressed by the inspiring life stories and by the “cooler than you can imagine” characters.
Our biggest struggle is still the sadness about not being able to share these experiences with our families and friends properly and sometimes maybe inspire them to be a bit more adventurous. Of course we have pictures, videos and this blog but it is far not the same. WE see these places, WE live, work and laugh with these people, WE`re being amazed by the unique real-life stories, WE live these through, WE can touch, smell, feel them and WE are affected by them to thrive. We are both from small towns with all of their friendliness but (sadly) often with the small thinking, too and we made it this far (not financially but in terms of mindset and happiness) because of these events, memories, challenges, travels and the work we put in which build on each other and make us move forward towards the next one.
Oh, yes, the next one. What will it be? Let`s close this chapter first. I miss it so much, still processing. I was part of something bigger and I'm not just talking about organising a marathon in Africa (though it sounds cool by itself) but leaving a legacy behind, making people's lives a little bit better, working and guiding others to experience Uganda and make new memories. Creating something together, laughing together, connecting each other. Just like many times throughout the week, here they are, tears in the eyes.
I think I just want to sit back by that campfire with a beer now. My happy place, in Uganda.