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When Lagos turned to Athens By Jeddy Omisore

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(L-R)Mr. Herbert Wigwe, GMD/CEO Access Bank Plc, Dr Idiat Oluranti Adebule, Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Mr Akinwunmi  Ambode, Executive Governor of Lagos State and Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, President, National Council, Nigerian Stock Exchange, at the 2017 Access Bank Lagos City Marathon in Lagos
(L-R)Mr. Herbert Wigwe, GMD/CEO Access Bank Plc, Dr Idiat Oluranti Adebule, Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, Executive Governor of Lagos State and Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, President, National Council, Nigerian Stock Exchange, at the 2017 Access Bank Lagos City Marathon in Lagos

Recently, the city of Lagos was agog as it grabbed global attention, courtesy the second edition of the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon. Thousands of athletes and fun seekers converged for the 42.195 kilometer run which started at the National stadium in Surulere and terminated at the Eko Atlantic city.

History has it that marathon as a sport was instituted in commemoration of the fabled run of the Greek soldier, Pheidippides who was sent from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the battle of Marathon. According to the legend, Pheidippides ran the entire distance without stopping and burst into the assembly exclaiming: “We have won” before collapsing and dying. What a way to go!

However, the idea of a modern marathon race came from Michael Breal who wanted the event to feature in the first modern Olympic Games in 1986 in Athens. The idea was well supported by Pierre De Coubertin, the founder of modern Olympics. The rest, as they say, is now history.

There is no gainsaying the fact that Lagos state government is so intentional in organizing the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon. It is, among others, in furtherance of the Lagos State Government’s commitment to achieving excellence through sports. And according to observers, the just concluded 2017 edition was not only a resounding success but an epitome of international standard. Adjudged the second highest ranking marathon in Africa, the event which was declared open by the State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode was also graced by dignitaries from far and wide and the who-is-who in the world of sports.

Over 20,000 athletes competed in the 2017 marathon with 60 international participants in the male category. World class marathoners of both sexes also participated. Participants came from far and wide like Kenya, Ethiopia, Bahrain, Eritrea, Morocco, Cameroun, Uganda and India as the 120 professionals in Nigeria slugged it out with their foreign counterparts.

Like the one before it, the 2017 Lagos marathon was a textbook handling of logistics by the organizers, the Lagos state government and the sponsor, Access Bank. In a time of two hours, 15 minutes and 20 seconds, Kenya’s, Abraham Kiptum who won the maiden edition of the marathon successfully defended his title again at the second edition of the race carting away the grand prize of $50,000.

His time was a new record in the Lagos Marathon as he posted a time of two hours, 16 minutes and 19 seconds in the 2016 maiden edition.
Ronny Kiboss and Kiprotich Kiroi, also Kenyans came second and third finishing in two hours, 15 minutes and 25 seconds and two hours, 15 minutes and 30 seconds, winning $40,000 and $30,000 dollars respectively. Rodah Tanuyi, also from Kenya emerged as the first place winner in the female category. She finished the race with an impressive time of 2 hours 37 minutes 50 seconds. Iliyam Pam from Nassarawa was the first Nigerian to finish the entire race.

As expected, the marathon was a boon and boom for the Lagos economy. With many international athletes, observers and foreigners coming into Lagos, players in the hospitality business had a cause to smile all the way to the bank.

Moreso, the last edition of the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon saw several Lagosians empowered through making fliers, kits, billboards and a host of other services as artisans, designers, stylists and events managers. The marathon also employed several others that served as volunteers. Thus, the race did not only fulfill its sporting mission but also served as an economically viable venture that gave back to the society in so many ways.

Furthermore, at a time when most Nigerians hardly walk and jog moving from their houses to their destinations in cars and other means of transportation, the excess sugar that could have been lost by walking, jogging or running remains in the body, causing serious damage and sometimes leading to terminal illness. Thus, the benefits that come when we embrace a sporting lifestyle are enormous as they go a long way as a preventive and curative measure against diseases like cancer, hypertension and even diabetes. Running strengthens the heart, decreases the risk of heart attack as well as ensures the efficient flow of blood throughout your body.

The Lagos City marathon has continued to put Lagos on the map of the world, as one of the destination areas as far as international marathons are concerned. By embracing a culture of marathons, the citizens become healthier thus government needs to spend less on healthcare. This is a win-win for all and sundry. It further underscores the capacity of the Akinwunmi-led administration for good thinking.

 American author and speaker, Steve Farrar in his book, Finishing Strong made the following profound statement: “Life is like a marathon, it is not about how you start but how you finish.” But for Akinwunmi Ambode, the Chief Accounting Officer of Lagos State, how you start is as important as how you finish. And in the race to project and promote Lagos as well as empower Lagosians to be the best they could, there is no slowing down, caving in or giving up –it’s a race to the finish!

Omisore is of the Features Unit, Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja

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