On Saturday morning, in conditions more akin to mid-March in Manchester than equatorial Africa, 250 runners took part in Volunteer Uganda’s “Be A Gunner, Be A Runner” community fun run.
Our Arsenal coaches have put on training sessions for 8 schools across Kanungu district over the past 2 months and the BAGBAR event was an opportunity to bring all of those schools together.
It is now rainy season in south-west Uganda but, despite the rain lashing down making the dirt roads turn to mud, children from Kazuru primary and the surrounding community turned up at the start line at 9am, a full 90 minutes before the whistle would sound for the start of the race.
Kazuru was one of three start lines, with runners converging on the finish line at Savannah trading centre from Kanungu town and Bugarama.
The routes from these trio of start points varied. The course from Kanungu slopes gently downhill for most of the 3km. From Bugarama, the road undulates over the same distance with a final punishing climb just before the finish line. The run from Kazuru is an altogether different challenge.
At just a little over 2km it is the shortest of all the routes but the ground is rocky, the hills are steep and, on this particular morning, much of the course offered the same traction as an ice rink.
With Arsenal shirts, shorts and hats on offer as prizes for first to third in each of the adult, boy and girl categories, the competition was fierce. But it was the competitors out to run, not to win, who captured my attention.
There was the mother who ran the route from Kazuru with her infant son strapped to her back. There was the head teacher from Kirima Kindergarten who, by his own admission, is out of shape but ran to encourage his pupils and teachers to take up the challenge. And there was child after child who ran in bare feet, the knocks of the road dampened by the determined look in their eye.
It is, after all, the ultimate aim of Arsenal in the Community and Volunteer Uganda to
encourage more of these people, the eager entrants, rather than the seasoned runners, to participate in sporting and community events.
On the evidence of this event, the willingness to battle through the rain to reach the finish line, putting personal achievement before sporting glory, BAGBAR has more than served its purpose.