KAMPALA —Lake Mburo National Park is the smallest of the 10 national parks in the country.
But what the 370 square kilometre park lacks in size, it makes up with its rich variety of plants and animals such as the eland, impala, buffaloes, hippos, warthogs, giraffes and klipspringers.
It is believed to be home to the highest concentration of leopards and is also home to the largest population of zebras in Uganda.
These were some of the spectators as hundreds of runners – amateur and established – took on the track at the inaugural Kigambira Marathon held on Saturday in the wild of the park that is located in South Western Uganda.
The marathon, waz organised by Kigambira Safari Lodge in partnership with Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and Uganda Tourism Board (UTB).
Among the runners was Joshua Cheptegei, whose role was to flag off the hundreds of runners who had gathered at the start point inside the luxury eco-lodge located in the southern part of the park.
But the Olympic Gold Medalist and World Champion was not going to just sit back and watch while others did what he does best. And so he decided to take on the track for the 10km run way after the first runners had been flagged off by the Mbarara City North MP, Robert Mwesigwa Rukaari and Kigambira safari lodge proprietor Brig Charles Bakahumura.
Cheptegei, who broke a 15-year old 10,000 meter world record in Valencia, Spain in 2020, knew that this was a meant to be a fun event. And so he took his time, posting about 40 minutes for a distance he often does in 26.
“Along the way, I met some runners and I decided to run at their pace. We had an interesting conversation and I gave them tips on how they can become future champions,” Cheptegei, who was accompanied by his manager Benjamin Njia, joked afterwards.
“I enjoyed myself today and will return for the next Run in the Wild,” the UTB brand ambassador added.
One of the local runners praised the event organisers.
“Such initiatives should be held quite often. I crossed the finish line before a World Champion and that for me is all I ever dreamt about. I did not win the Shs1million, but I will forever cherish this moment,” he said.
Shs1million was the cash prize for the winner of the 10km run, alongside several other prizes.
“The marathon was organised to promote conservation in Lake Mburo National Park. We also wanted to awaken the desire of Ugandans to visit our game parks to enjoy their country after months of lockdown. Kigambira Safari lodge also reminds Ugandans to own their country and protect their national treasures,” event organiser Mike Ssegawa said.
Working with champion Joshua, we are able to raise awareness about conservation, sustainable development, tourism and sports talent.”
Proceeds from the run will support beekeeping communities in Lake Mburo National Park which are being funded by Kigambira Safari Lodge which is owned by Karungi Crown Entreprises ltd.