Back in November 2017, when I left London and set out on this journey, I didn't really have an end game in mind. It was basically to travel and run and learn (and run) until I ran out of money.
Almost two years on, I have explored running and sports culture in sixteen countries, 'competed' with varying levels of success in seven marathons (including six world majors), finally achieved a long-standing ambition to complete Comrades marathon (just about) and experienced a spectacular burnout.
During this time, I have visited and worked with 15 community sports groups and organisations in Colombia, Nicaragua, Guatemala, USA, Kenya & Uganda to understand their operating models, successes and challenges to working in a sustainable way. Drawing on these experiences, plus the last four years working in Uganda with the Uganda Marathon, I have started a new social enterprise - Sport for Africa.
A hill climb in Sipi, Kapchorwa District, Sipi Falls in the background. One of the training routes on the Sport for Africa running camp.
The aim of Sport for Africa is to utilise the aforementioned learning to provide operational and financial support to grassroots community sports organisations in East Africa.
Our primary focus will be to provide the means for community sports organisations to become self-sufficient and operate in a sustainable fashion. The principle vehicle for this will be a 'Seeds for Sport' programme. Through this programme, we engage sports projects who are operating with minimal resources and undertake a qualification process to understand their mission, objectives, operating model and obstacles to success. Successful candidates will qualify for a seed loan toward a small farming initiative, the profits from which will need to be invested directly into community sports provision. Upon achieving a pre-agreed level of profit, the initial seed investment will be returned to Sport for Africa and used to fund the next qualified sports project.
And now for the 'how'... The initial start-up funds will be raised through a kickstarter with a twist (more on that in due course) and using sports tourism, specifically running camps. If you've been following along over the last couple of years, you will have seen that I have become enchanted with the district of Kapchorwa, a little green corner of a mountain in Eastern Uganda known as the 'Land of Champions'. I'm very keen to share this special place with my fellow runners so that will be the location for our inaugural running camp in February 2020. A small group of friendly runners will take part in our 'Pioneers Camp', a 14 day training and cultural experience at 2000m above sea level, helping us to integrate international runners to the community gradually and make a vital contribution to tourism and community sport development in the region. Registration is open now, a whopping 20% early adopter discount is on offer until the end of August and places are very limited.
Oh, and as for 'Adventures in Running', I will continue to share tales of running the world on here (if I ever get my racing head back) but everything around Sport for Development will now sit with the new project.
If you're interested in supporting Sport for Africa with ideas, time, useful contacts or good old fashioned cash then I'd love to hear from you - drop me a line.
It's great to see what Mark is setting out to achieve and how running can be central in getting people together. We'll be following with a keen interest!