Each for his own reasons, about 50,000 marathoners are expected to gather by 7.00 a.m. on February 6, 2016 at the start of the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon tagged, “running from Old Lagos to the New Lagos,” OLUKAYODE THOMAS reports.
WITH about N92 million up for grabs for marathoners, who can run from the Old Lagos (National Stadium Surulere) to New Lagos (Eko Atlantic City), a distance of 42.195 kilometers, in less than three hours, Lagos City Marathon is a sure bet cash cow for those who earn their living running road races and marathons around the world.
Its prize money of $50,000.00 each, for the first male and female winner, makes it one of the two most lucrative marathons in Africa, the other being the Comrades Marathon in Durban, South Africa. iIt also ranks among the world’s best.
Therefore, it is not surprising that elite marathoners across the globe are all heading to Lagos in order to compete in the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon slated for February 6, 2016.
Foreign and Local Elites Scramble for Cash
More than 50 elite athletes from over 10 countries have entered for the race. They include marathoners, who are worth their weight in gold with IAAF gold label runners like Abraham Kiptom, Peter Kiptoo Kiplagat, Amos Mitel, Sammy Kipkorir Kibet, Simpson Pkanaan Limareng, Nelson Kirwa Rotich, Kipkemboi Hosea, Philip Kiplagat Biwott Kenya and Isaac Kipkeboi Kosgei, Mehair Fesshaye and Ali Abdosh Muhammed.
Gold label women marathoners, who will be in Lagos to dig for the top prize worth $50, 000, include Alice Tim- Bilil and Leah Jebet Kiprono.
Elite athletes from all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria are not only coming to enjoy Lagos’ beautiful and breath taking structures, but also to also seek the ultimate prize in the men and women categories and the N1 million each for the first Nigerian man and woman to cross the line.
Leading the charge is the High Altitude Athletics Club of Jos, Plateau State, who are coming to Lagos with 25 elite marathoners.
Deborah Pam, one of Nigeria’s leading roadrunners, has promised to give a good account of herself at the February 6 race.
Pam, who ended 2015 on a low note with an injury cupped in training in November, while preparing for the last Aba Half Marathon, said she has chosen to work extra hard, not just to be fit to compete at the Lagos City Marathon, but more importantly, to give a credible performance like she has been known to do in long distance races.
With a long list of honours, starting from the Obudu Mountain Race, Okpekpe Road Race and the Splash FM Integrity Full Marathon Race, which is staged annually in Ibadan, among others, Pam said she is positive she could add the Lagos City Marathon to her laurels.
“It feels great to be a champion all the time… I know I am already popular here in Nigeria as I always finish ahead of other local athletes, but I will be more fulfilled to outrun the international athletes coming from Kenya and across the world,” she enthused.
Pam, who emerged the best Nigerian woman during the last two editions of Okpekpe road race, won the last Ibadan Marathon in a record time of 3hrs, 3mins and 23secs; bettering the 3:06:51 she set to win in 2013.
National record and Olympics qualifier as target
For Jos-born Emmanuel Gyang, the Lagos City Marathon presents an opportunity to break the national record of 2.16.06 set by Abbas Mohammed about 26 years ago.
Gyan believes running alongside the big boys from Kenya, Ethiopia and other parts of the world should help him break the record set by Mohammed.
“I have already started my training and by God’s grace, I want to set a new record in my first big outing in a full marathon,” Gyan said.
Gyan, who on December 7, 2013, set a new national record of 1:04,18secs in the 21km at the Nanning International Race in China, says Lagos has always been a good hunting ground for him and he hopes it would be same when he lines out to compete on February 6.
“I have always done well when I come to Lagos to run; actually I was the back-to-back champion at the Lagos Beach Marathon (a 10km-race),” Gyan boasted.
Gyan, who also emerged as the top Nigerian at the last edition of the annual 10-kilometre Okpekpe Road Race, also said it was heartwarming that Nigeria, through Lagos State, is finally situating itself properly on the world marathon map.
National record holder in 20 km Walk Race, Adeyemi Kazeem, believes running the Lagos City Marathon will boost his chances of making the Rio 2016 Olympics qualification standard.
As is the case around the world, Walk Race athletes use marathon races to build themselves for their primary events and for Adeyemi, a rare full marathon race will do him a lot of good as he targets competing in an Olympic qualifier in Kenya by March 2016.
“The target I set for myself is to make it to the Olympics next year and this Lagos City Marathon should help me in a great way,” Adeyemi, who competed at the All African Games in 2003 and 2007, noted.
Still, the Lagos City Marathon is not only about winning cash prizes, setting national records and qualifying for the Olympics. Another reason to run is the health benefits that come with marathons, especially if one makes it a way of life.
Researches across the world have shown that running marathon as a way of life has many health benefits. They include but not limited to weight loss, improved cardiovascular health, improved bone health, improved mood and better coordination.
Running, according to RUN.COM, “is an excellent form of exercise for losing weight because it requires a great deal of energy.
This energy requirement means the body burns a large number of calories while running. The number of calories burned while running is typically significantly more than would be burned during less taxing forms of exercise such as walking or doing yoga.’’
RUN.COM also states that improved cardiovascular health is another benefit of running. “Some of the benefits of running include lowering the blood pressure and helping the arteries to maintain their elasticity.’’
For those that want to keep looking sweet sixteen, RUN.COM has a good news, “Running is also beneficial for slowing down the aging process. Running can also have many psychological benefits. Most significantly, runners typically report being happier and feeling less stressed than their counterparts, who do not run or exercise regularly. Running has also been reported to alleviate stress in most runners. Improved coordination is another worthwhile benefit, which may be gained from running.’’
Running for charity
If your New Year resolution is to raise money for one or more of the hundreds of charities in Nigeria, or if you are already into raising money for charities and your efforts are not yielding the desired results, your days of worries are behind you, all thanks to Lagos City Marathon sponsored by Access Bank.
Marathons all over the world have proved to be the number one money spinner for charity organisations. London City Marathon, which has been used to raise about £800 million, is the world’s number one event used to raise money for charities, according to the Guinness Book of Record.
For celebrities all over the world, especially those in the entertainment industry, the marathon has been a vital tool to raise money and promote causes.
Alicia Keys runs the New York Marathon in support of Keep a Child Alive — a charity she co-founded that makes HIV medications more accessible to children and families in Africa.
The Grammy award-winner and mother of two and other celebrities are examples for Nigerian celebrities to use the Lagos City Marathon to support charities or promote causes dear to their hearts like war against piracy and other worthy causes.
For Lagosians, the economic benefits marathon presents must be grabbed with both hands. For example, the Chicago Marathon, according to a study performed by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Regional Economics Applications Laboratory, in 2013 generated “$253.49 million in total business activity to the Chicago economy,” which is an “equivalent of 1,742 full-time jobs and $85.94 million worth of wages and salary income.”
Furthermore, the economics lab reported the marathon itself “directly contributed to an estimated $101.8 million distributed among the main sectors of the tourism industry, in addition to another $151.7 million in indirect activity.”
The 119th Boston Marathon of April 20, 2015, and surrounding Marathon-related events, including the John Hancock Sports & Fitness Expo and the B.A.A. 5K, was estimated to have enriched the city with $181.9 million (USD).
TCS New York City Marathon is an economic juggernaut for the Big Apple, according to reports.
Last year, it generated an economic impact of about $415 million, according to a report produced for race organizer New York Road Runners by AECOM.
The Dubai Marathon has huge impact on the city’s economy with more than $100 million inflow on Dubai businesses said its organizers.
The London Marathon generated £110.1 million worth of economic activity in the United Kingdom last year while spending in the capital by marathon runners, spectators, organizers and visitors was worth £31.7 million, according to a report.
Lagos City Marathon, though still at infancy, has the potential to become an international event that would promote sports as well as tourism, fitness, competitiveness and healthy living.
Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, recently said “when we say you should live in Lagos, work in Lagos and enjoy in Lagos, we mean that we are going to put tourism, entertainment, arts and sports together for excellence; that is what I have been preaching and that is what we are going to work on”
Lagos is ready
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Organizing Committee, Deji Tinubu, has assured that Lagos is ready to host the world.
Tinubu explained that relevant agencies are already carrying out the necessary test run on the race route “In line with international rules, we have gone round the marathon route and all the water points, security points, medical points, everything has been noted and various agencies have also visited.
“We have also written to the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Information, Ministry of Environment, Road Safety Corps, Ministry of Transportation, Tourism, Local Government, Lagos State Signs and Advertising Agency, the Nigeria Police, and I am happy to say that every single one of them have committed one hundred and one percent to make the marathon a huge success.
“The Ministry of Transportation had a drive test-run of the marathon route, also LASTMA agents were involved for an appraisal of traffic management and control of traffic during and after the marathon,” Tinubu said.
Thrilled by the prospect of watching the best marathoners from around the world running in his country, Marathon legend, Abbass Muhammed, has urged other leaders to emulate Governor Ambode of Lagos State.
He said: “Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has started what I believe will revive the culture of cross country running and marathon in Nigeria, these are lucrative areas of sports our youth can be gainfully employed in.
I believe that Lagos, being the Center of Excellence, should be emulated by other states. I am appealing to other state governors and political leaders in Nigeria to take a cue from Governor Ambode and arrest unemployment and youth restiveness, solve problems of crime and criminality, and generally engage our youth with road races and marathon. The governor has done very well, he deserves a very warm handshake and praises, I and the likes of Ado Maude, another great runner, who could not fulfill his potentials because we didn’t get the right support, are proud of him. If Ambode was a leader during our era, we would have ruled the world,’’ concluded Muhammed.