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My Journey From My Couch To Running Half Marathons In Africa

“Running the Muskathlon with Compassion changed my life.”

Debbie shares tips as she smashes her second Muskathlon challenge in Africa

“I know I’m going to be the last person to finish the half marathon but I don’t care. For me, it’s all about going the distance, enjoying the experience and doing something good for someone else.”

When it comes to remarkable achievements, Debbie knows a thing or two. Not content with one half-marathon under the 28-degree African sun in 2017, she signed up for another this year.

But she’s not your average sporty type who won all the medals at school.

Before she signed up for the Muskathlon - an epic challenge overseas to raise money for Compassion - she could barely walk up the stairs without getting out of breath.

So how did she do it? And why is she doing it again?

Here Debbie shares her tips for living bigger than your dreams …

Find your motivation

The Muskathlon changed my life. The sense of achievement was so great. Every time I think about it, I end up with the biggest smile on my face.

But I didn’t know that when I started! I never dreamt I could run a half marathon. I wanted to get fit, but I didn’t want the journey to be just about me.


Signing up for the Muskathlon meant I could raise money for a Child Survival project which helps vulnerable mothers and babies in Rwanda. One of the most precious moments was meeting my sponsored child, five- year-old Izabayo and I got to see the difference Compassion makes with my own eyes.

When I thought of the lives I could change, the motivation I needed came flooding back.

I decided to record my experience through a series of journals and illustrations. It was my way of capturing how I was feeling on the journey in visual form. I poured the highs and the lows straight from my heart onto the pages of my sketchbook.

 Discover more about our 2019 Muskathlon

Pray for strength

Completing the challenge worked wonders for my faith. Spiritually, I feel I went with a promise from God that I would succeed. I wouldn’t feel pain and that the heat wouldn’t be a problem. To my amazement, all those things happened. I feel it’s taught me to hear God’s voice and believe it will happen.

So this year, I’m more excited than nervous. My fear isn’t failure, because I know I’ve done it before. But I am praying that my knees will hold up and that the heat won’t get to me.

Get support

I found a running coach who helped with my technique and showed me ways I could improve my strength. I learnt some stretches I could do afterwards to avoid injury. Not everyone needs a trainer – sometimes a friend or running partner helps too. I ran with my dear friend Karen who spurred me on with endless encouragement.


The training was tough, especially during those dark and cold winter mornings when I wanted to give up. But I reminded myself of the children I was running for and slowly my fitness started to improve. With each training session, I was able to increase my distance and run a little further.

Raise money

Asking people for money is never easy. I’ve done this two years in a row now! Last year I didn’t reach my target – but this year I’ve doubled it. I’ve learnt that when you offer something they can experience or purchase, you’re going to get more takers.

This year I put on a quiz night. People bought tickets and there was an auction where a lot of money was raised and many children got sponsored. It ended up with everyone happy.

Keep going!

The worst part of the Muskathlon is the training. This year I set myself challenges every month on the run up to Kenya. Challenges to push me a little more each month.

marathon finish line

These challenges have totally worked for me. In some ways, they made the training easier because I just focused on one month at a time rather than the bigger picture.

Fight your fears

On the day of the flight to Rwanda in 2017, I was sitting at my front door waiting for someone to pick me up. Sitting there, I had this emotional battle with myself. I very nearly didn’t go because my fear started to take over.

Fortunately, I overcame my fear and I did go. I had the best week and I met some amazing people. I feel I now have friends for life. So even though I went alone, I came back with friends.

Enjoy the experience

Someone told me in Rwanda that I had done all the hard work to get there, and now all I had to do was my lap of honour.

At the time I thought, ‘It’s going to be the hardest lap of honour I have ever done!’ But he was right, it totally was a lap of honour and not as hard as I thought.

While I was in the country I wanted to do everything. If there was dancing I was there in the middle of it, if there was a challenge I wanted to do it!

I was up late laughing with all my new friends and that isn’t like me at all, I like to go to bed early. If I could give any advice I would say get the most out of the experience you can and don’t be afraid to let your hair down.

Why not set yourself a challenge like mine? A Muskathlon can be a half marathon, a full marathon or even an ultra-marathon, and there are options for walking or cycling, too. Imagine that feeling as you cross the finish line. Astounding!

Join me and come to Rwanda in 2019

WORDS : Compassion UK

PHOTOS : Compassion UK



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