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Rift Marathon runners

The Rift Marathon (Saturday, 11th November 2017) – By David Bentham

Running the Rift Marathon 2017

I’ve been up since 4:45am and had a quick breakfast at the hotel followed by a slow bus journey in pitch darkness along deeply rutted and potholed roads, in order to be on the start line and ready for the flag-off at 7:30am.
It’s warm and humid and the 26 runners are eager to get going when we are told that, due to heavy rain in the night, the marshals are struggling to get to some of the remote check points, and the start will be delayed by half an hour. We are in Fort Portal in rural Uganda and in the three days since we all arrived, as well as getting to know each other and becoming friends, we have adapted to the flexible approach to time-keeping in this beautiful part of Africa.

ISU international school of Uganda -

I first became aware of the run when I saw it advertised in the UK Trail Running magazine. ‘Running the Rift Marathon’, according to the publicity, was going to be the adventure of a lifetime. I was instantly hooked – convincing my wife that this holiday was just what she needed took a little longer!

When we finally set off on the run both the temperature and humidity have started to rise, making an already challenging trail run even more difficult. The track is mainly dirt, turned to mud in places after the night’s rain, and the marathon has a total ascent of just less than 2,500 feet. We run along narrow paths on grassy hills, occasionally passing through small settlements where we are joined by children who delight in running along with us for several kilometres, some even holding our hands, before turning back to their homes.

Runners approaching Kyaninga Lodge

Runners approaching Kyaninga Lodge


Local children running along with competitors

The Rwenzori Mountains form a backdrop throughout the run, a stunning spectacle that in a certain light appears almost surreal, the detail and colours exaggerated to an almost impossible clarity. Which is all well and good when you remember to look up and see it, but for most of the day I am concentrating on continuing to breathe and stay on track! About six miles out from the finish line my old nemesis, cramp in the inner thigh, hits me with a vengeance. Despite copious use of a cold spray I carry, massaging and so on, the cramp keeps coming back, and I am forced to walk the final section. As I approach the last corner before the run-in, looking bedraggled and exhausted, a spectator calls out ‘How was it?’ I gasp the reply, ‘Piece of cake’, to much laughter.

Rift-Marathon runner
Rift-Marathon runner

I cross the line, slowly, after 5 hours and 48 minutes – thankfully there are a few others yet to finish. The organisation of the run has been superb and in the evening a feast featuring whole roast pigs and a plentiful supply of local specialities is served up. We still have three days of activities ahead of us, including a road and river safari in the Queen Elizabeth National Park, just across the equator.

David Bentham (on-the-left) just crossing the finishing line

Me (on-the-left) just crossing the finishing line

The organisers of this extraordinary adventure are Paul and Ellie, whose welcoming and supportive approach made us all feel at home from the moment we arrived. There was a full medical team on hand throughout, and all profit from the event goes to the Kyaninga Child Development Centre. This charitable institution provides support for children with disabilities in the Fort Portal area, with a team of twelve specialist therapists helping transform young lives through a vital service unique to this part of Africa. David Ewong, the silver medal Paralympian and Para World Champion Gold Medallist, inspires the children and their families each year, with his message that disability is not inability, and that they should aim high and follow their dreams. As part of the Rift Marathon experience, competitors spend a day at the centre and interact with the children in sack races, drum playing, football and more, much to the obvious delight of all concerned.

The Rift Marathon 2018
This years run will take place December 1st – I cannot recommend it highly enough. 

For more information about the KCDC, please contact:

Fort Portal (Head Office),

Mobile: +256 784 005373 / +256 793 419315.

Email: info@kyaningacdc.org.

Website: www.kyaningacdc.org.

Kasese Office, Mobile: +256 775 229044.

Email: KCDCKasese@gmail.com

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