Man Running 15 Marathons in 15 Days to Pay Teachers’ Salaries in Africa
Two weeks. It doesn’t sound like a significant amount of time, but for Chris Robbie, 24, it was the quality, not the quantity of those weeks that made all the difference.
Robbie spent two weeks in Uganda in 2012. On the plane ride back to the United States, the Longmont, Colorado native redirected his energy from figuring out how to spend his time to developing a plan on how to best use his time.
Robbie went to Uganda with a friend because he wanted to experience the culture. A seasoned international traveler and influencer, Robbie has done a lot of non-profit work in Haiti. He’s also volunteered on several mission-related trips to Belize, Indonesia, and Thailand.
Put it this way: When it comes to full immersion into a culture, Robbie can assimilate quickly and develop lasting relationships with the people that he encounters.
For example, Robbie met Olive in the Kito Village of Uganda.
“Her story just really kind of captivated me, and almost saved my life in a way,” Robbie said.
Having grown up in Kito, Olive eventually left the village to take a job as a teacher at a rather prestigious international school in the capitol city of Kampala. She felt a calling to go back to Kito and start a school because there wasn’t one in the area.
Five years ago, Olive was teaching 50-75 kids each day in a school building made of mud.
“When I went and I heard her story and saw the community, it really captured my heart,” Robbie said. “In Kito Village, there’s no electricity and everyone goes to the well to get their water. There’s a lot of poverty, but there’s a real sense of beauty and joy among the people there.”
Robbie was so moved by Olive and the people of Kito that once he returned to the United States, he helped raise enough money with a friend to build seven more permanent classrooms.
“I wanted to stay connected with them long term, and do what I could from here,” Robbie said.
In 2013, Robbie along with Adam Lozinski, Danny Robinson, and Sililo Woo Ching founded Enduring Communites, which has a primary goal of funding this school in Uganda. It also funds a farm and agricultural expansion program, a women’s leadership program, and a soccer and youth development program.
“The kids that are in the village are just so excited to be able to go to school and have the opportunity to learn and to play,” Robbie said. “I think it’s something we take for granted here in the U.S.”
Since they launched, Enduring Communities has helped build three more classrooms to bring the student body up to about 330 kids, who are taught by 15 teachers. The foundation supports the school on a monthly basis in terms of funding teachers’ salaries, breakfast and lunch for the students each day, and helping with school supplies.
“Eventually in the future, the hope is we don’t have to support it on a monthly basis,” Robbie said. “Eventually it will be able to run on its own without outside support.”
In the meantime, Robbie has taken it upon himself to run 15 marathons in 15 days to raise enough money to pay for 15 teachers’ salaries at the school.
For the past 11 days, he’s run 26.2 miles in a different city in Colorado. He’ll complete the 15 for Uganda Challenge on June 30, 393 miles stronger.
Robbie ran cross country and track at Westmont College in Santa Barbara before transferring to the University of Colorado in Boulder. He’s run half marathons and one full marathon before, but that was the extent of his long distance running experience.
To train, Robbie ran whenever and wherever he could. He even did some of his training on the small island of Haiti.
“As I was running along a soccer field, a little boy came up and started to watch me,” Robbie said. “After about ten minutes of staring and trying to figure out what this crazy American was doing, he gathered the courage to join me. He ran with me barefoot for about 20 minutes, and had the biggest smile you could imagine. He would run fast and get ahead of me, then look back as if challenging me. I would then start running faster and pass him, as we did this back and forth. This boy and I spoke different languages, and could not understand a word each other said, but we didn’t need to. The running, the smiles and the laughter spoke for themselves.”
During this challenge, Robbie wakes up at 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. He runs 26.2 miles with his mother, sister, and cousin supporting him on the course. They usually meet him twice along the course to replenish his food and water. It’s taken him between five and a half and six hours to finish each marathon. Then he goes home to ice, stretch, and load up on food so that he can do it all over again the next day.
It sounds like a rather smooth operation, but it didn’t start that way.
“On my first marathon, I tripped over a fence post and fell within the first 30 minutes,” Robbie said. “I wasn’t sure I would make it 15 marathons if I was starting out that way.”
Aside from the fence shark that took him out, the most challenging day of his run was on day seven when all of his joints were hurting.
“My knees were achy, my ankles were achy, and my feet were achy. When I went off on the road to start running, all my joints were hurting. I started off by walking and then it turned to a really light jog. I thought that I might not be able to keep doing this. This might be the point where I have to stop. I really just kept pushing through, taking things step by step, and eventually my legs started to loosen up.”
The thing that keeps Robbie trucking is thoughts of why he’s doing it in the first place. That and the fact that the students in Uganda are supporting him in their own way.
“I’ve been telling Olive and the other teachers what I’m doing, and the kids are really excited,” Robbie said. “Each day the kids are running 15 laps around the soccer field at the school in honor of me running these 15 marathons. It makes it feel like they’re running with me in spirit even though they can’t be in Colorado running with me. That’s what keeps me going is picturing these kids and these teachers who are making an impact in their community.”
Robbie will be heading to law school at Notre Dame in the fall where he will continue to follow his purpose in life.
“To go out and take risks in order to make an impact in the lives of others around us,” Robbie said. “I think the biggest compliment that people give me is when they tell me that I’ve inspired them to go out and make a difference in their community.”
Step by step, mile by mile, two week trip by two week trip to Africa, Robbie and Enduring Communities aren’t just giving the gift of eduction. They’re designing lives and international connectedness.
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