Bright colours, headbands and the tightly laced sneakers of a runner have become an everyday sight in Kampala’s landscape. John, a self-professed running addict, runs for 30 minutes most mornings through his neighbourhood in Naguru. He has been running for three years now and while initially the reason was to keep healthy now he runs because he enjoys it. When he goes three days without running he says he feels a little unbalanced. Whenever John runs, he now sees more people on the trail with him. To him, this is a good indication that more people are taking up running or that those already involved are being consistent with it.
Running is easy because there are next to no rules. John refers to it as the lazy man’s exercise. All you need, he says, is some road and to put one foot in front of the other. It is cheap and there is no special gear required. You do not even need a map although some runners choose to run designated trails. Like any venture he urges some caution. His golden rules are running in well lit places and carrying your cell phone.
For the aesthetic mind, a scenic route is a good choice. In Kampala, those interested in a bit of a challenge can run on hilly terrain. While there are a number of running trails in the city many people, like John, choose to run near their homes or workplaces for convenience.
WalkJogRun.net is a U.S. based website dedicated to mapping running trails. People from across the world can map their running or walking courses. Caitlin Seick, a marketing associate at WalkJogRun.net, confirms that they have some routes in Uganda which were all created by members on the site. Some of their routes can be found at: http://www.walkjogrun.net/running-routes/Uganda/.
Running goes beyond just exercise for WalkJogRun.net. They also partner with charity organizations to promote running events such as the recently held Run Awake 5k for the Achon Uganda Children’s fund.
For others, it is easier to run in a group. The Kampala Hash House Harriers are the most well-known running group in the city. Although they are dedicated runners it appears that running is their secondary objective – the primary one being to meet people and have a good time. As they say, they are drinkers, with a running problem or runners with a drinking problem.
The eccentricities of the group are widely detailed – members can be ‘punished’ for stretching before a run, or showing up with a new pair of shoes by having to drink a beer, or soft drink, out of one of their shoes. Punishments can range from having beer tossed at you to you having to wear a toilet seat around your neck while kneeling inside a circle of the other runners.
The Kampala Hash House Harriers meet on Mondays at 6pm at an earlier communicated place and run a trail set by the trail master. This can be anywhere in the city so the routes are posted online. Martin Fowler, known to the group as ‘Hacking Bush’ (nicknames/hash handles are another custom of the group) says membership is as easy as simply showing up with 8,000 UGX. The trails change constantly.
In addition to the weekly runs, the Hashers also hold a number of running events. In February, the Hashers tackle the 7 Hills Run around Kampala, an affair that is topped off by lots of celebration and drinking, of course. Another event on their calendar is the Jinja Relay in early July. The Hash Bash is the final running event of the year. All this fun also has some heart to it. At the end of the year they give a surplus of their collections to a charity of their choosing. Find them on their Facebook page.
There are annual Marathons in Kampala. The biggest group of runners in the city can be spotted at these events;
- Kabaka Birthday Run: This is organised in April every year in rememberance of the birthday of Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II. This event normally runs on the Sunday before 13th April, the birthdate of the Kabaka. The event attracts thousands of Ugandans in Kampala and it has the 5km, 10km and 21km. There is always a Community cause for this event. More details about the Buganda Road race can be found on their site and Facebook page. https://www.bugandatourism.com/events/kabaka-birthday-run
- The MTN Kampala Marathon: The marathon is held in November every year and there is a particular cause to run for! It has the 42km, 21km and 10km legs. It also caters for disabled participation. Both professional and amateur runners dabble at the yearly event. Preparations for this are serious as there is a generous prize for the winner.
- The Buganda Road Race is another annual running event organised by the Buganda kingdom.
Organisations and communities such as the International School of Uganda also hold charity runs.