The London Marathon 2021 offered REACH Bwindi an opportunity to raise money for Bwindi Community Hospital by inviting people to sponsor a team of three runners. I have visited Bwindi several times in the last few years, and I know how much can be achieved with our support through the devotion and hard work of all the people who work at the hospital and in the community.
Our team comprised Holly, Mandy and me, Marian. We trained for and ran the full marathon distance, 26.2 miles, in three locations : Orkney, Hong Kong and mid-Wales on the 3rd of October.
I live in a very hilly part of the country in Herefordshire, which is where I usually run, but wanted to do the marathon somewhere flatter… About an hour’s drive away, over the border in Wales is the town of Brecon which is the starting point of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal. Built at the end of the 18th century to transport coal and lime, it runs for 35 miles down towards Newport on the south Wales coast. Lined with trees for long stretches, it runs through the most beautiful countryside, following the course of the River Usk.
Training for a marathon happens over about four months, with 2-3 shorter runs during the week and longer runs on a Sunday. These gradually build up to about 20 miles, three weeks before the marathon. After that, I ran shorter distances to conserve energy for the big day. I used these longer runs to test out my marathon route, to check that there would be GPS signal throughout so that my run could be verified. My husband, Tom, and I worked out points en route for him to give me water and snacks. When I was struggling with painful muscles, being too hot, being too cold, getting drenched or just feeling tired, the generosity of those who sponsored us and the knowledge of what the money could achieve kept me going. The final point on my list was buying a running vest with the Ugandan flag to wear on the day.
It finally arrived. Having loaded up with pasta the night before, we set the alarm for 6.30 aiming to be at the start for 8am. I felt really nervous – not wanting to let the team down. There was light rain as I headed off, not long after daybreak. Tom and our daughter Caroline were my ‘support team’. They met me at five points en route, with decreasing distances between rendezvous, which helped the psychology of the task. The weather was sunshine and showers – I saw eight rainbows in all which was a real lift. I was surprised to meet a few other people enroute who were doing the Virtual London Marathon as well.
When I was flagging, it was really helpful to be part of a team, knowing that Holly and Mandy were doing the same thing at the same time although it was early evening and 27C in Hong Kong. What was really special, was that at the same time in Uganda, BCH and the local community held a multi- sports day with a cycle ride, a run and a football match. Participants were divided into Teams Holly, Mandy and Marian. Social media enabled photos to be sent to and fro in real time. This meant that there was a real sense of community, of shared effort for a common cause. It was inspirational. When I finally finished I felt exhausted, exhilarated and quite emotional.
Holly. Mandy and I would like to thank everyone who supported our efforts. Your generosity raised £2,930.25. This will go towards Community Services providing primary care to the 100 villages served by BCH, improving diagnosis and management of diabetes, heart and respiratory conditions.