Friday, March 5News For London

Londoners invited to run Uganda marathon

Londoners are being invited to take part in what has been dubbed ‘a race like no other’ to support local communities in Uganda. Cynthia Gregoire meets the organisers Nick Kershaw and Henry Blanchard. Sub editor: Indraja Gugle 

Nick Kershaw and Henry Blanchard have come together since 2013 to bring the Uganda Marathon, which takes place in May, into fruition.  The group is working together to improve lives in the Masaka region of Uganda, and they are making it the cultural trip of a lifetime.

Director Henry Blanchard and UK Director Nick Kershaw
Director Henry Blanchard and UK Director Nick Kershaw

The trip includes the opportunity to run a half, full or relay marathon attached to a week-long stay in Uganda where participants may choose to join in and help with local projects while staying with host families.

Housing projects race participants can be a part of
Housing projects race participants can be a part of

The Uganda Marathon project continues to grow and gain support in just two short years. Supporters including the Ugandan government, non-governmental organisations, several charities, runners and adventurers have turned an idea into an amazing story of hope and promise to the people of Uganda.

Set to take place in May of 2015, Race Director Henry Blanchard explains how the project started:

“We’ve been working out in Uganda for some time for a local non-governmental organisation doing incredible work in Masaka town, just in the south of the country.

We have been helping the people of Masaka to carry out their work by arranging for UK students to volunteer with them. Over time, we’ve built an amazing relationship with the organisation and have really come to love the projects they have underway.

So we decided to take advantage of the adventures our community does, and set up our own charity called Shauku Foundation in order to raise funds for these projects and aim to maximise the utility of the money.”

Locals cheer on race participants local and international
Locals cheer on race participants local and international

Blanchard also describe why Uganda was the perfect destination to start such a project:

“Uganda is going through so many of the growing pains of a developing nation in Africa – failing infrastructure, lack of access to healthcare, clean water, education. HIV is a constant threat and is particularly bad in Masaka region where there is up to 38% HIV rates in towns around Lake Victoria. “

Kershaw adds: “The thing about this project is that we’re not going to show the runners the Comic-Relief style slums or the vast beautiful vistas of an Attenborough documentary (though both are present). We are introducing people to that huge, vast, extraordinary Africa that lies between the two. This is the Africa that we love – developing, progressing but still greatly under appreciated and lacking in so many areas. We are looking to help a developing region and create a blueprint for other regions and towns that are looking to take the next step in their development.”

Uganda is still a developing country
Uganda is still a developing country

Blanchard adds: “It’s truly exciting because the impact you can have is so powerful, as you see the growth in the community. It’s the crest of a wave. The nation is vibrant, friendly, optimistic and truly a pleasure to spend time in.”

The Uganda Marathon is held May 24, 2014.

Locals await the Uganda Marathon 2015
Locals await the Uganda Marathon 2015

Inspiration to Run! – What Will Your Impact Be? – Uganda International Marathon