By Femi Solaja
After four years of uninterrupted sponsorship, the annual Access Bank Lagos City Marathon had craved an identity not only for the city (Lagos) but the country in spite of global appeal football may have given Nigeria over the years.
The last installment of the event held last Saturday with over 400,000 participants including elite athletes both within the country and international marathoners who have locked the February date in their calendar.
The event is the ultimate window for individual test for every participant in preparation, strategy, discipline and endurance as a way of life because everyone wins something in the Marathon and Access Lagos City Marathon has complied with the global standard.
The Bronze label expectedly was dominated by Ethiopian runners while Nigerians runners had to contend with the second phase of prize category. But more importantly, just like in the previous editions, all the athletes were full of praises to the sponsor, Access Bank in spite of repeated anomalies by theorganisers.
The Ethiopian duo of Suntayahu Legese and Dinke Meseret are the hero and heroine of the day as they came top in both male and female events and at the end of the 42km race Legese returned with a time of 2:17:28secs to come first while Kipkorir Joshua of Kenya came second with a time of 2:18:16secs to beat fellow countryman, William Yegon to the third place. Yegon returned with a time of 2:19:04secs.
“I have attended several marathons over the world and I must confess to you that Lagos event is one of the best experiences for me. The annual event is a pride to Africa and the City of Lagos has shown that it can stand among other prominent cities in the world.
“The frenzy atmosphere around the finishing line is astonishing, it makes me very proud as a black man that it’s a good development for marathon they can sustain it for a longer time,” the overall winner, Lagese commented after the presentation.
Perhaps, the major beneficiary of the day was Nigeria’s Deborah Pam, who made history by finishing sixth fastest woman overall, returning a time of 2:52.59 to claim her second consecutive title.
Pam, who is popularly called the queen of long-distance races in Nigeria, achieved a historic feat by breaking into the overall top female finishers.
While presenting the star prize of $50, 000 to the male winner, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode commended all the athletes for putting up a good fight in the race and said it was keenly contested. He, however, assured that the race has come to stay in Lagos State.
Ambode also expressed appreciation to the management of the title sponsor, Access Bank for making the race a reality.
Summarily, Nigerians athletes had benefited in cash and kind from the race, and they stand more in the subsequent editions.