As Lagos State gets ready to host the second Access Bank Lagos City Marathon on Feb. 11, 2017, fans are worried about the East African challenge.
It is a worry to the fans not just because of the mouth watering prize money of 50,000 dollars for the winners each in both categories, 40,000 dollars for the second placed winners, and 30,000 dollars for the third position, but for the global acclaim.
They are also concerned because of the efforts of the host, Lagos State Government to make the state a Sports Hub in Africa and place it on the world sports map.
But it is known that globally East Africans, especially the Kalenjins from Kenya dominate in the long distance races, dating back to the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.
The dominance started when Kalenjin runner Kipchoge Keino defeated world record holder, Jim Ryun, in the 1,500m race.
Kipchoge had to run in spite of a gall bladder infection. Since 1988, 20 of the 25 first placed men in the Boston Marathon have been Kenyans.
Kenyans are known to have less mass for their height, longer legs, shorter torsos, and more slender limbs which make their body type suitable for long distance races.
They boast of athletes like Pamela Jelimo, Paul Tergat, Kipchoge Keino, Helen Kimaiyo, Wilson Kipketer, Henry Rono, Moses Kiptanui who dominated the world’s long distance race in the past few decades.
Some of the recent distance runners who have made marks for themselves are Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto and Emmanuel Mutai, Eliud Kipchoge, Stanley Biwott, Wesley Korir, Kenenisa Bekele and Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia.
At the maiden edition of the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon, Kenya’s Abraham Kiptum won the race with a time of 2.16: 21 out-distancing his compatriot, Peter Kiplagat.
Hosea Kipkeboi of Kenya came second with a time of 2:16:34 and Debebe Tolosa of Ethiopia came third with a time of 2:16:40.
Halima Hussain Kayo of Ethiopia emerged first in the female category with 2hrs 38mins 36secs, Alice Timbul of Kenya came second with 2:38:49 and Aberash Fetase of Ethiopia returned third with 2:39:09.
In the Nigeria female category, Mary Akor returned first but was disqualified, thereby making Oluwaseun Olamide the surprise winner, with Dinatu Yohanna coming second.
In the male category of Nigerian runners,Sharabutu came first in the local category with 2:30:51, Eliya Pam returned second with a time of 2:31:41 and Peter Maham came third with a time of 2:39:07
With the timing returned by winners in international category, is it possible for a Nigerian to win the second edition?
Yes, it is possible with the likes of Philip Sharabutu, Emanuel Gyang, Pam,Olamide, Yohanna, Aderonke Olumudi, Deborah Pam.
The winner in the international male category, Kiptum returned a time of 2.16: 21, while Nigeria’s Sharabutu came first in the local category with 2:30:51, Pam came second with a time of 2:31:41 and Maham came third with a time of 2:39:07
Deborah Pam has been able to run 2hrs 52mins 16secs at the 2016 Jos Marathon, a time near that of the winner in the female international category, Halima Hussain Kayo who returned 2hrs 38mins 36secs.
With the marginal differences in their timings, Nigerian athletes can compete with the world in marathons and road races if they are invested on, especially training in high altitudes where the Kalenjins in Kenya live.
The altitude helps them build a better running endurance such that when they compete at courses of lower altitudes, they easily win.
Their diets which are rich in proteins but low in fats fill many of the menus of East Africans, dairy products as well as meat help fulfill their dietary requirements.
Pastoralism is also ingrained in the East African culture which takes them on journeys along plains and heights with their cattle or sheep.
Yohanna, who returned second in the Nigeria female category of the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon, says Nigerian athletes are talented but needs more support.
She adds that for Nigerian distance runners to be recognised globally there was need to train harder and be determined.
A Long Distance Race Coach, Stephen Nuhu, also believed that Nigeria has the qualities to compete globally if there are sponsors to help the distance runners.
“Nigerian athletes are talented but the challenge we are having is lack of sponsorship. Distance runners need good food and rest.
“After training, you will need something that will give you back your energy,’’ he said.
With the foregoing, it is important for the Nigerian sports authorities to begin to put in place structures that will enable its athletes to train adequately for such competitions considering that the country is not endowed with the feature the East African possess.
Such measures must include building a high altitude training center in a place like Jos that has been identified to have such weather.
Fortunately, the International Association of Athletics federations (IAAF) during the maiden edition of the Lagos marathon, promised to help the country to develop one in Jos. What remains now is following up to ensure it is set up.
The authorities should provide supplement in the form of vitamins and proteins required by the athletes to be healthy for such races and also ensure adequate funding of their training.
They athletes should be sponsored to international races to be able to evaluate themselves and shape up for future challenges. It is by and large, hoped that a Nigerian will emerge winner in ther international category of this year’s marathon.
It is hopes that if all these are done, the huge prize momey carted away by the foreigners could be kept by Nigerians thereby helping to swell the economy. (NANFEATURES)