Though African athletes are considered the best long distance runners in the world, one Derry man plans to show them what he is made of, on their own turf.
Bogside man, Gerry Kennedy, who now lives in Quigley’s Point, will be among the 25,000 participants in the run around the ‘City of Seven Hills’ as he takes on the Kampala Marathon in Uganda on November 25.
It is the latest physical endurance task undertaken by local Self Help, Africa volunteers in the name of charity.
As their annual River Foyle charity row was cancelled this summer due to the adverse weather conditions, organisers are asking regular contributors to assist in Mr. Kennedy’s fundraising.
Albert Doherty of Self Help Africa said: “Any money raised in advance of this summer’s cancelled row has been donated toward Gerry’s total.
“The money will go to the same place. We are also promising an exceptional rowing event for next year.”
Mr. Doherty, who is in his 70s, completes the Prehen to Greencastle row each summer, but for the marathon challenge he has decided to let someone else do the running.
“I gave into the pressure,” jokes Gerry, when asked why he has undertaken the challenge. He does have form though, adding: “I have run many marathons for charity already and last year I climbed to the Everest Base Camp in order to raise funds for the Belfast Simon Community. This is my first African marathon, it’s something different isn’t it.
“I’ve worked with the homeless for some 35 years now, 23 of those with First Housing here in Derry. I try to raise some money every year through one adventure or another but I should add I will be paying my own costs so any money raised will go direct to the charity. This is a good opportunity to run with those who are among the best in the world.”
Gerry is also scheduled to visit a number of Ugandan businesses and farming projects which were started up with capital donated in Ireland. The money raised here is loaned to African farmers, their repayments are then reinvested in the local economy.
Asked about the challenges he faces during the run, Gerry said: “The weather will be challenging but not as hot as you would think. The average temperatures are between 22-27C degrees. I will only have two days to acclimatise before the race so it may be tough going.
“It is all about empowering people to improve their condition, that is what Self help Africa is all about.
As for running in ‘The City of Seven Hills’ Mr. Kennedy said: “I’ve been running in Derry all my life, it can’t be that hard!” Anyone who would like to donate or collect a sponsorship form for Self Help Africa is asked to contact Mr. Albert Doherty on 00 353 74 93 83360.