The MTN Kampala Marathon organisers tell us they organise it for charity. You can probably detect some scepticism in there. It's because I don't really trust these charity events organisers, and how much of the proceeds (HUGE proceeds!) really go to charity.
As it is, this marathon is announced every year around October/November, and is conducted in December. I've been patiently waiting for the announcement, 'cause well, in spite of my love for the track, I put the jogging/running practice off for as long as I can, and don't start running until the announcement comes out, and a couple of weeks later. This year I'm starting early, the announcement was aired last week and I'm taking out my running shoes and shorts and hitting the free way.
In the evenings, around this time of the year, roads are decked with runners in yellow t-shirts. MTN (telecom company) has yellow as it's brand colour, and every runner, upon registering for the marathon is given a yellow hamper, with yellow everything: tee, water bottle, bandanna, route map, and one non-yellow thing: a white distance/time measuring device (what's their name, again?) to fasten to one's running shoes. These devices we hand in at the finishing line and the finishing times are published in one of the daily's some days later. While practising we wear the year before's t-shirts, as this year's hampers are distributed a week or so to the marathon itself. I don't know why last year but one's t-shirt instead of last year's tee, it just is. I guess it's easier to rummage around for the most recent t-shirt. Also on FM stations in the evenings one hears the talk-show hosts cautioning drivers to take extra care not to knock down any runners as they practice, running about on the roadsides. Evening traffic as commuters return home from work is usually maddening, so I for one appreciate this reminder to the drivers. Last thing I would need is to be knocked down at dusk by a driver slightly blinded by fatigue.
There are a number of things I love about the marathon, aside from the running. The runners are varied, including wheel-chair bound racers. Several professional runners turn up too, to compete for some prize-money. Did I forget to mention there was prize money? There is prize money, and while thousands of us are there for the mix, others are there for the mint. Some attend it as a family event, others as an outside-the-office team-bonding opp. Others as individuals, looking to stay healthy. Preparing for the marathon, you see, gives one extra incentive to go running everyday. Of course we get a number of people collapsing and fainting along the way on the D-day. Last year had the greatest number of those, reason being lack of much practice. Frankly, it's a rather exciting day, and you find a number of people turning up without prior preparation. Die-hards, right? No.
Last year had some extra drama, too. The marathon closely preceded this year's Feb general elections, so the politicians saw it as a campaign opportunity, and figured they would turn up and at least just get seen around, putting on a running show. So they turned, and off to the starting line they went, only to drop out panting somewhere along the way - too beat to complete. There were a few good causes too. The eastern part of the country, being mountaneous had seen some devastating landslides. Many had died, many displaced, and the save the trees/environment campaign intensified. One girl got this message printed on the back of her shorts, drawing attention to her butt, to the joy of some male marathoners.
Of course MTN, in organising their marathon, didn't miss the business opportunity. The event has taken on some glamour, too. VIP tents from posh restaurants and 5-star hotels, corporate tents brought in by the corporate companies for their oh, so 'corporate' staff, a variety of musicians, the fashion magazines people, advertisers, name it, they turn up. For the less glamorous ones among us there are cheap barbecue stands, lots of food stalls and mobile food thingies. I remember spending my cash at one of the barbecue stands one year, only to leave with half-cooked sausages and an empty tummy, still. Lesson well-learnt. Oh, and don't forget the kiddies. Bouncing castles, face-painting, clowns, and everything kiddy's-fun. So with all this, it's perfectly acceptable to turn up at the airstrip (where all the action takes place, starting and finish point too) alone, with friends, or with family, and just laze around, relax, eat, and make merry without so much as breaking a sweat in the pretence of anything close to a run, let alone a jog.
I wish I had some pictures, dear reader, but I can't quite remember where the few I had are. Some could be somewhere in an old phone, whose screen froze and needs repair. I'll try to get those if I can, and post them here.
So this week I'm getting my registration fee ready (yes, there's that. Not much, though. Charity and all), taking out my running shoes, my yellow tee, and going pumping. Wanna come with?