For five years now, members of Team Matooke – a social running club – have battered the Kampala-Entebbe route.
Their profile as ‘Road Generals’ has been growing with their big activities coming every second Sunday of the month.
The hardened among them usually run a 42.2km no-pressure marathon but participants can go for as ‘many’ as 10km.
However, there has been a growing urge to grow their profile and the Comrades Marathon in Durban, South Africa felt like a good place to start. The organisers had earmarked June 14 as the date for the 95th edition of this highly rated marathon but were forced to cancel the event due to the Covid-19 pandemic that forced almost every country into lockdown and thus locking their airspaces.
Fortunately, by the time the date came around, Uganda’s lockdown had been eased so Team Matooke encouraged their members to run any distance between 5km and 90km then log their distances onto the Comrades web page.
So while everyone was holed up at home, a sizable number of ‘Generals’ took to the crowd-free streets and roads that Sunday morning to mark their inaugural ‘appearance’ in the Comrades ‘Race the Legends’ virtual Marathon.
Herman Kambugu – an Information & Technology (I.T) specialist at Standard Chartered Bank – had made a name for himself as the club’s fastest and long distance runner. He is actually referred to as ‘Omutolontosi’ among his peers. ‘Okutolontoka’ is a Luganda word to mean increasing momentum.
Crowd of three
But in Martin Abila and Charles Mugambe of DStv, Kambugu had good company and competition – to test his impetus for the 90km run that started at Kampala Club to Entebbe Airport through Kajjansi and Nkumba before they made a U-turn back to Kampala Club through Kitunulu, Kisubi, Bwebajja and Queens Way.
Kambugu managed the feat in 10 hours and 47 minutes hence nine minutes better than first-timers Abila, who clocked 10 hours and 56 minutes and Mugambe, who clocked 10:57 hours. Team Matooke’s Yusuf Mukwaya Lwere and Alvin Mbugua, who were among the morale boosters on the day, were in awe of the achievement and hinted that it will inspire many more usual long distance runners in their club to take on the challenge next year.
“These guys (trio) paid their own money to run ($30 or Shs112,000). It shows how passionate and determined they are,” said Lwere.
Mbugua chipped in; “Congratulations Charles, Herman and Abila on the 90km virtual Comrades Run, you have set the pace for all of us.”
For three runners, it was one experience they wish every long distance runner can accomplish in their lifetime.
“I did the 87km last year from Durban to Pietermaritzburg and there was no way I was going to miss this year,” said Kambugu. “I had to motivate my mates and run with them. I had to lead the battle from the front.”
Mugambe was relieved he had ticked one on his to-do list early enough. “I had seen older people including ladies achieve this milestone and I thought I needed to man up and do it as well. I hope I have also inspired others,” said the 51-year Facilities Manager at MultiChoice Uganda.
Abila, who works as an I.T specialist in the Office of the Auditor General, referred to the feat as ‘an amazing personal achievement’.
“I had to challenge myself and go out of my comfort zone. I started running in 1998 but had never taken it seriously. I had a personal drive to do the 90km and I am overjoyed to have achieved it,” he said.
At least 22 Ugandans took part in the ‘virtual’ marathon with six completing the 45km event and seven crossing the finishing line in the 21.1km.
ABOUT THE MARATHON
The Comrades Marathon is an ultramarathon of approximately 89 kilometres (55 mi) which is run annually in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg. It is the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon race. The direction of the race alternates each year between the «up» run (87 km) starting from Durban and the «down» run (now 90.184 km) starting from Pietermaritzburg.
90 KM CATEGORY
Herman Kambugu 10 hours, 47 minutes
Martin Abila 10 hours, 56 minutes
Charles Mugambe 10 hours, 57 minutes