Running the Rift Valley - race report

The organisers of Running the Rift recap on last year’s event

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Running the Rift is much more than just a race. It is a life-changing adventure deep into rural Africa where runners from around the world join east Africans and local Ugandans on the brutal trails of the Great Rift Valley. The third iteration in 2018, was as epic as ever.

The event saw runners from UK, Australia, United States, United Arab Emirates, Croatia, Tanzania and Kenya travel to the heart of rural Uganda to enjoy an all-inclusive week-long adventure, culminating in a 10km, 21km or 42km race to challenge the toughest trail runner.

The setting 

Located on the edge of a volcanic crater lake, marathon HQ is not only the start and finish for each race, it is a luxury home for our runners over the week-long adventure - a week of meeting like-minded runners and making life-long friends, of acclimatisation runs and exploring volcanic craters and lakes, of boat safaris and chimpanzee treks, of volunteering with local projects - all while still finding time for games, relaxation, swimming, fine food and drink.  

The race 

On Saturday December 1, 2018, as the red African sun rose over the UNESCO-protected Rwenzori Mountains, runners from around the world, and of all different abilities, stood on the start line in nervous anticipation. Stood beside them was an eclectic mix of local Ugandans and east Africans. Some were there for fun, others there for more serious matters. Since the marathon began three years ago, a club of young local runners has emerged, coached by former Ugandan international Yiga Francis - all keen to get their first big win in a country that is rapidly challenging its Titanic running neighbours Kenya and Ethiopia.

Ahead of them was 10km, 21km or 42km of relentlessly hilly dirt trails. The full marathon course took in a lap of the stunning crater lake before snaking up to the escarpment of the Great Rift Valley. Once on the high ground, runners were treated to an astounding sight - where the mythical Rwenzori Mountains meet East Africa's Great Rift Valley. Harsh mountains meet idyllic Africa savannah and lush green forests meet sunbaked grasslands. The course wound from village-to-village, with runners being treated to a contrasting mix of excited children running alongside them, and the tranquillity of running in a true wilderness - with plenty of water and banana stops to keep the runners going!

The finish line

Awaiting everyone after many kilometres of brutal trails was a feast fit for a King. Runners from different nations and cultures mingled with local runners to eat and drink in celebration of their achievements.

The full marathon was won by Rubert Lubega in 3:04, the half in 1:11 by Ssebuuma Gonzaga, and the 10km by David Emong in 36:03. Yiga saw his young runners put on a fine performance, with a third place in the half and second place in the 10km.

The reason

But why does this race happen? It is all to raise funds for the Kyaninga Child Development Centre, which exists to treat and support disabled children and their families in Uganda. The KCDC enables the children to live a full, happy and productive life. Key to this is demonstrating that disability is not an inability. And what better way to prove this than the 10km winner David Emong? David is the first Ugandan to win a Paralympic gold medal (1500m).

The 2019 race

The 2019 event takes place from November 17-25 - see runningtheriftmarathon.com