For the past 3 years the Access Bank Lagos Marathon race has been held without fail. It began in 2016 and since then, it has grown bigger and bigger and each one has been a great improvement on the previous ones. A few days back, the 2018 edition was held in Lagos
Kenyan born French athlete, Kiprotich Abraham breast the tape in 2 hours, 13 minutes and 4 seconds to emerge winner of the 3rd edition of the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon, carting away the grand prize of $50,000. Abraham’s time set a new Lagos Marathon record, 3 minutes better than the record set by his fellow compatriot, Abraham Kiptum in the second edition of the 42km annual tourney, held last year.
Kenyan duo of Ronny Kipkoech Kiboss and Benjamin Bitok, came 2nd and 3rd finishing in 2 hours, 13 minutes and 26 seconds and two hours, 13 minutes and 29 seconds, winning $40,000 and $30,000 USD respectively. In the female category, it was a clean sweep by Ethiopia, as the trio of Alemenesh Herpha Guta, Tigst Girrna Getayechew and Ayelu Abebe Hordofa came 1st, 2nd and 3rd to win $50,000, $40,000 and $30,000 USD respectively. Illya Pam was the first Nigerian to finish the 42km race in two hours, 40 minutes, 16 seconds to win N3 million, while Sharubutu Philbus came second in 2 hours, 54 minutes and 16 seconds to win N2 million and Kefas Williams also got on the medals table finishing third in a time of two hours, 58 minutes, 16 seconds to win the third prize of N1 million. There were also prizes for Nigerians in the newly introduced 10km race, which saw Sajo Ismaila (male) and ana Salay (female) drove home a brand new saloon car each and other mouth watering prizes.
The 42km race started at the National Stadium, Surulere by 6:30am and ended at the Eko Atlantic City in Victoria Island while the 10km race also began from Osborne and terminated also at the Eko Atlantic City with over 100,000 athletes battling for the various prize monies.
What’s the idea behind the race? How was it put together?
These and many more were the questions that went through my mind as I rushed to meet Bukola Olopade, the Project Consultant behind the Lagos Marathon race. He is a Sports guru and the boss of NILAYO Sports Management Company. Olopade was a former Sports Commissioner under the Otunba Gbenga Daniel government in Ogun State.
In this interview with City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE, he explained how the Lagos Marathon race started a few years ago.
This year’s Access Bank Lagos Marathon race just ended a few days back. What’s you assessment of the event?
It was nice. The feedbacks, commentaries and remarks we’ve been getting from people have been impressive. You just met us here also reviewing the event. We are extremely very proud that majority of the people that ran the race have come back with a pass mark for us, not just a pass mark, an excellent pass mark. This morning we started our internal review where we tell one another the naked truth. We look at the failures, the positives, the negatives and the way forward. From here, the commencements of the plans for 2019 starts in March.
How did the idea of Lagos Marathon race come about?
It was in 2012 after my academic experience at the Nelson Mandela Sports University, where I did an MSC programme in Sports Management. Part of the project, we worked on has The Effect Of Road Races On the Economy of Mega cities. And it occurred to me when cities were been listed that Lagos as one of the megacities of the world did not have a major racing competition. It was also a challenge to me, that as a Gym freak and as someone who swims a lot that there was hardly any road-running teams across the city and the state.
So, I came up with the idea. But I had to look at how it was going to be financially viable. I did my calculation and found out that it was going to be financially viable. That led me towards coming up with a proposal that Lagos State bought into and the private sector bought into for us to be able to put this big event on the ground in Nigeria.
When did the Lagos Marathon race start?
The 1st edition was in 2016. When Governor Akinwunmi Ambode was approached with the proposal, it was amazing, how quickly he was able to have a grasp of all the issues, especially the vision behind the project which also ties into his own vision of using sports as a veritable tool of empowerment not just as marathon but linking it with Tourism and Entertainment. So, when you look at the Lagos Marathon, it is actually the vision of Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode that is been shown, year in, year out by those of us he has picked as the organisers of the marathon race.
How has the 3rd Lagos Marathon races been, starting from the 1st one?
Talking about the 1st one, after the Governors buy in, we had to use the Governor’s name to market it to Access Bank. They also bought into the vision and quickly accepted to be the headline sponsors. I remember in our presentation to the Access Bank team there was a brilliant young member called Toun who wondered whether we could do a Marathon in 6 weeks. She was actually doing her due diligence on behalf of the bank. She said it wasn’t possible for us to do our Marathon in 6 weeks. At that time, it was just 6 to 7 weeks to the date we had posited and remember Yusuf Alli saying we have been working since the first day the Governor agreed in July.
We did not wait for this time to come. He said we had done our bit. We had spoken to runners across the world. And we are good to go. So, we planned the 1st Marathon under 6 weeks. Even that been the 1st Marathon was a huge success if you consider what we had to go through to put the race together, it was a huge challenge but we surmounted it.
The 2nd one was better than the 1st one. We had like 6 to 7 months to prepare. We were able to correct a few of the lapses. We were now faced with this huge crowd. Now, Lagos State had over 2000, to 3000 running gangs, everywhere in the state. We had so many people wanting to change their old lifestyle to a healthy lifestyle of jogging and running constantly, which was what we wanted to achieve.
We had many Internationals asking to be part of the race, we had many diasporas registering to be part of the race. We found ourselves with over 80,000 registered runners. Which on the day translated to about 70,000 to 77,000 people that ran the 42km and we had only the 42 Kilometres. It was after the race that the IWAF gave us the Bronze medal, which simply means, you did your work very well.
There are potentials in your Marathon, and we, as IWAF, we want to see those potentials grow into the Silver and Gold label. So, we would trust you with the Bronze medal, hoping your next edition will surpass everything you did in the previous ones.
The 2018 edition was actually supervised by a very important personality sent by IWAF, the head of Road races in the world. He was sent to see this wonderful thing that was happening in this part of Africa. His feedback is instructive.
That there are a few things we need to correct here and there, like quick fixes he pointed out to us. But all of these have shown us that we’ve done well again. We are very optimistic that if we don’t get the Gold, we would get the Silver in the next one.
Can you tell us about the advantages of the Marathon?
Road races are meant to create a healthy environment for the city, state or community. It is the fastest way to encourage young old, big, small to imbibe into them, the culture of exercising the body, the culture of walking from one place to another, the culture of running, and improving on the mortality rate of our country.
These days young people are dying of Heart Attack. We need to encourage healthy living. We need to eat Healthy. We need to embrace a healthy lifestyle. What road races tend to do is to bring all of these to bear. It creates high quality living for people of the City, of the state and of the country. If people live a healthy life, then we can have a healthy nation. A country can thrive when your people are healthy. It’s a cliché, but it is the truth.
So what’s the challenge of putting together a Marathon?
It’s a lot of challenge. But the challenge of putting together a Marathon does not bother me perse because we are Nigerians. We know how to put things together in a way that the world will stand up to look, with a lot of Glitz and Class and Glamour.
When people ask: do you face numerous challenges putting together the event? I just say to them. Yes. But despite that, we are always able to put together the event.
I don’t look at the challenges. But there are clear and present challenges that tend to point towards undermining the efforts of the organizers. The number one challenge is how to put it in the consciousness of our people that it is not everyone that runs a marathon that must win a medal. The medals are restricted so that you can improve on your timing next year. Hence we have a time bracket in which you must start the race. (Which is 6am in the morning) for 42kms and you must ensure that you get to the finish line by 12 noon.
That is 6 hours. Everything outside this 6 hours does not entitle you to a medal. For the 10kms, which we introduced this years, to create family atmosphere, to bring people together to network, we were able to achieve that this year, by Gods Grace you have to finish that within 1 hour, 25 minutes. If you don’t finish within that bracket you are not entitled to a medal. I think our biggest challenge now is how we can get people to understand that it is not everyone that runs the race that is entitled to a Medal. It’s a major headache. And we need to work on that. we give certificates to all participants. Infact, we put certificates in your goodie bags when you pick it up.
The other challenge is getting Community Sponsors. We have created a category just for Community Sponsors.
Again, that is not about the money. Our major sponsors are doing very well. Year in, year out, they come up with humongous amounts of money. We know its not cheap to organize a Marathon race. We need more community sponsors. We need a City People for example to be a partner in dissemination of information. We need smaller business to be part of it. So that we can continue to take it back to the community. This marathon must belong to the people. We are gradually getting there.
Take us through the growth that the Lagos marathon has witnessed in the last 3 years
What has happened is that from the 1st edition, we got brilliant ideas on how to get quality runners from abroad to come and run. So, we succeeded in doing that. We got more countries to get more involved.
28 countries ran the 2nd edition whereas the 1st editionn had about 6 to 7 countries. We moved on from that to this year where the citizens of 32 countries took part, if not more.
But I think our biggest achievement in the last 3 years has been the introduction of 10 kilometres race, which has encouraged the family in running. Some of the pictures we saw in social media showed children in their tricycles and rollar scates running with their parents strolling, having a good family bond time. I remember the 1st time I muted that everybody went aghast! They said who is going to manage the logistics behind that I told them think about what we would be doing to Lagos families and Nigerian families. Some travelled far from all over Nigeria to be here. Think about the bond that will exist after the race. That is our biggest achievement in the last 3 years.
Do you also monitor marathon races all over the world?
We do. One of the demands by the CBN is that for any bank to sponsor us (in this case Access Bank) we must have comparative analysis. In my proposal on the Marathon, abinitio, I put it there. I made comparatives.
I had been to 5 different marathons, before this one started so, I was very knowledgeable. Yusuf Alli ditto. So, before the first marathon, I had been of the opinion that, every year, we would send 2 to 3 people abroad to minitor the best 20 marathons in the world. So, we have done Miami, Dubai, London. We want to Lebanon later this year. We want to do Boston. We have been sending different people. We have succeeded in sending about 10 different people to study the different marathons and they have been part of planning of subsequent Lagos marathons.
Which are the top 5 marathons in the world?
London, Dubai, New York, Berlin and Paris.