Training for the Boston Marathon in Uganda

Posted on Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Spring 2017 Convocation: Decisive moments

In April 2017, Hunter Kelly (B.Ed ’17) fulfilled the volunteer placement requirement for her degree by undertaking an international practicum. She recounts the experience of becoming a celebrity runner in an African village.

Running buddies Herman and Hunter

I was one of four teacher candidates that Professor Ruth Kane took with her this year to Kamengo, Uganda. We taught lessons during the day and, after school, did math and reading, English and arts and crafts with children at the Agnes Zabali Boys and Girls Club.

Although Kamengo’s population is about 13,000, it is small and has only one main street. We were staying at the top of the giant hill in the middle of the village, requiring me to run up and down it every day. But I was okay with that, because I was in training.

For the first time, I had qualified for the Boston Marathon. It was a big deal for me and my dad, to do Boston together. He has run more than 100 marathons; Boston would be my fifth. Then, the Kamengo opportunity came up, and I decided to complete my race training in Africa so I could still run the Boston marathon.

That was interesting! Kamengo is close to the equator and very hot. I liked running in the morning, when it was cooler. Children on their way to school would chase me and try to give me high fives, so it was always super fun. Some days I’d put candies in my pockets to give them as I was running. I was a celebrity!

But after school, I ran with Herman, a really funny guy who could outrun me any day in his plastic sandals. I was nervous running on the dirt road, which was full of huge potholes – and I had shoes on. Herman was a good sport through it all, and it was really nice to have someone to run with.

This was my first trip to Africa and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But it was an amazing experience, and I hope to go back next year when Ruth takes her next group of uOttawa Education students.

After the long trip from Kamengo, I had a day to rest in Boston before the race. I was still extremely jetlagged and it was unseasonably hot, so I was glad to have run in the Ugandan heat. When you’re used to training outside all winter in Ottawa, running in the low 20s [Centigrade] is warm enough to hurt you on a 3½-hour run.But the marathon went really well. I finished in good time and even beat my dad, which was a first!

Stretching after a run, Hunter and Herman were often joined by others keen to copy them. Photos: Ruth Kane

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