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The Day We Brought Duathlon to Kapchorwa

Introducing the bike run format to a community of runners!

It looked pretty simple when I wrote it down:

"Invite 20 local athletes to try duathlon?"

Fast forward a few weeks later to the day before the event: several tonnes of construction material have been dumped across the course (this is not the first time this has happened to me in Uganda) and we only have three patched up mountain bikes.

It's never as simple as it looks when you're organising an event up here.

For 18 months, we have been planning an event to bring together runners and cyclists from Uganda and beyond to our beautiful little spot on Mount Elgon. Our latest attempt was for June 26th but we had to cancel just 18 days before after additional government restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Despite the disappointment of having to cancel our main event again, prior to the announcement of these restrictions, we were still able to introduce the local community to the mixed cycling and running format. 

Our free duathlon 'time trial' style event took place on Saturday 5th June 2021. Registration was capped at 20 participants and keen local runners and cyclists filled the available places very quickly. After spending the night making homemade race bibs from photo paper & marker, we were up at 05.30 and ready to bring duathlon to Kapchorwa!

Pre-race briefing in the garden at Home of Friends Guesthouse, Kapchorwa

The original course was a hilly 5km that most of the local runners are familiar with as it's a popular easy run route. However, after the aforementioned dumping of materials coupled with concerns over the bike handling skills of some of the group, we decided to switch to a shorter, easier, local course for safety reasons. 

Following the pre-race briefing, we carried out a quick cycling proficiency check with all athletes to make sure they had the basic skills required to negotiate the technical terrain. As expected, for a region with very few bikes (almost all of which are single-speed), there was some difficulty with changing gears but all passed the test safely, albeit with some nervous wobbling.

Competitors would depart individually at four minute intervals, first cycling a 2km dirt course with a speedy descent and steep climb before embarking on a fast 2km run along the same route.

I had strategically placed myself alongside our medic at the foot of the main descent, a steep, heavily rutted dirt road. I had several heart-stopping moments as some of the braver/more reckless competitors hurtled rapidly down the hill but was very thankful to see everyone pass without a crash.

Within half an hour, I received a message that our three patched-up bikes had now become one. This meant that we had to do away with the timed intervals and wait for the bike to be returned for each competitor. Breakfast would have to wait for a while.

On my return to the start/finish zone, it transpired that the probable reason we lost 66% of our bikes was the somewhat aggressive transition approach of the participants. I discovered that in their rush to move from bike to run, the local lads were hurling the bikes and helmets away instead of handing them to the waiting mechanic as instructed.

The last few cyclists make it back with one stating that "I only came to ride a bike" when he walks off after declining the run whilst one of the faster runners is seen deciding that he can run the bike up a steep hill far quicker than riding it so does just that.

A competitor begins the descent after conquering a steep climb whilst his rival tries to fix a mechanical issue

Shadrack, one of our team members, encourages a runner as he reaches the top of a climb

After two hours of intense competition, the results are announced. The first four finishers received Run Kapchorwa merchandise and were selected to form a Kapchorwa representative squad for the main event (once restrictions allow). 

We are very grateful for the support of KOTWF Performance Training which enabled this groundbreaking event to take place.

Athletes selected for the Kapchorwa representative/KOTWF duathlon squad: Ruka Essan, Kimbowa Williams, Karameka Benson and Chemutai Leonard

One last thing...

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