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A Race like no other

Nick Kershaw (BA Politics 2010) is leading a team of volunteers organising the first ever Uganda International Marathon. The race will benefit the local community, with all funds being used to build new classrooms and medical facilities.

How do you combine a love of travel, a desire to push yourself to the limit of physical performance and a passion for helping those less fortunate than yourself? For keen athlete and fundraiser, Nick Kershaw, the solution obvious – and so the inaugural Uganda International Marathon was born.

Over the space of six days in May, three races -  a full, half and relay marathon - will take runners through projects the race has funded in the Masaka region of the country over tarmac, dirt road and rutted path tracks, both uphill and downhill. "We had the idea to get friends out to Uganda to run a race," said Nick. "It started as 5km but is now a full marathon."

As the Marathon's UK Director, Nick is working with international participants on training, preparation and fundraising. He said: "Masaka is right on the cusp of development. There is economic growth there, but the towns in the region also have up to 38% HIV infection rate."

"The standard of education there is improving too, but there is still a long way to go. Healthcare is in need of huge improvement too. But we shouldn't just throw money at the problem; we need to structure these projects so that they help the region to develop efficiently."

The races will take place on Sunday 24 May but participants will spend six days there living in the local community, where they will see first-hand the positive developments the race is funding, from new classrooms to medical facilities. There will also be social activities, with plans including a safari and a children's fun run.

The marathon is the latest in a string of social impact programmes and physical challenges for Nick. After graduating, five years ago, he went travelling in East Africa as part of the Newcastle2Kili project. Nick organised the month-long project, which took 60 Newcastle University students on an expedition to the summit of Kilimanjaro, raising an impressive £130,000 for charity. The team also spent a fortnight volunteering in Arusha, Tanzania.

A keen traveller, Nick then pursued other adventures, including travelling the length of India in an auto-rickshaw, before securing a job in finance in London. In spite of a busy career, Nick was constantly eyeing up new challenges motivated by a desire to improve the lives of some of the world's poorest people.

Around the same time, Nick successfully completed Ironman Wales, a gruelling 140-mile challenge consisting of swimming, cycling and running. Through his own charity partnership, Shauku Foundation, he raised over £5,000 to help build a new 180-bed dormitory at a community-funded orphanage in Masaka.

"The race has now been endorsed by the Ugandan government and we had an official launch by Uganda's High Commissioner in London," said Nick. "We are going to make sure that our impact is completely measurable and consistently monitored too. We are designing projects to help the development of the region, focusing on preventing problems and not just curing them."

"We care about the power of the money raised and how many lives are touched. We care about the sustainability of each project and what improvements they bring. We're looking to create a blueprint for all developing towns across East Africa by developing techniques to sustainably develop, measure and drive progress. That's what makes the event so much more exciting."

Organising the event has been a challenge in itself.

"Launching an international marathon 4,500miles away within five months has been an experience," said Nick. "There is quite simply no other marathon in the world doing what we are doing and the challenges involved are many and varied. Bringing on board corporate sponsors is one challenge, but handling business between London to Kampala can be tricky too!"

"The marathon is a huge undertaking; it's massive and intimidating but we keep working hard, we keep dreaming and we keep building."

Participants interested in taking part in the event should – literally – get their running shoes on as limited places now remain. For further information about the Uganda Marathon, please visit www.ugandamarathon.com.

By David-John Mather, Communications Officer

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published on: 2 April 2015