Twenty gold level running road runners will be among the elite cast of athletes confirmed for Saturday’s 7th Okpekpe International 10km Road Race in Okpekpe near Auchi, Etsako East Local Government Area of Edo State, organisers of the event have confirmed.
Leading the cast of gold level running athletes are former Okpekpe race winners, Alex Korio and Simon Cheprot of Kenya. Korio won in 2015 edition (29.20) while Cheprot outran all his rivals the following year (29:47). Both are 27 minutes runners as they hold 27:48 (2017) and 27:41 (2014) respectively.
“Just last June, Cheprot ran 27.44 at Oelde in Germany and looks like he will be aiming to become the first man to win two Okpekpe titles,” said Mercy Etukudo, head of secretariat for the first IAAF road running event in West Africa to be granted an IAAF label status.
“We also have Taye Grima, one of the Ethiopians on board the Okpekpe train that will challenge the Kenyans for the title. He has done 28:33 this year (January) and looks to be among the on-form athletes who will be coming to rewrite the course record on Saturday,” Etukudo added.
For the women, another former winner, Polline Wanjiku will be leading the charge for the title and possibly set a new course record.
“Wanjiku was the winner in 2016 and ran 33 minutes, 28 seconds to win. She is one of the gold level running athletes that we hope will crack the course record on Saturday.”
Etukudo is confident this year’s race will be very explosive going by the quality of athletes confirmed and reveals why organisers of the event have gone to invite as many as 20 gold level running athletes, surpassing the 12 stipulated by the IAAF.
“You know we always go for the best when it comes to the organisation of the race. What we have done is unprecedented in the history of road running in Nigeria. To have as many as 20 gold level-running athletes in a road race in Nigeria is a record and at Okpekpe we always set new records.
“Remember we are the first to have its course measured by an IAAF/AIMS accredited measurer. We are also the first to be granted a label status, a bronze in 2015.
“We graduated to silver last year which is another first in Nigeria and the West Africa sub-region.
”We have confirmed 10 male athletes and 10 female gold level running athletes, five silver level and two bronze level running athletes for Saturday’s race. We have 13 with no status as well as the Nigerian elite athletes who also come under no status. We now have the perfect stage to set new marks on Saturday.
“The last time we had athletes who ran under 29 minutes for men and 33 minutes for women was five years ago, precisely 2014 when the Ethiopian duo of Teshome Mekonnen and Wude Ayalew ran 28:35 and 32:41 respectively to set the current course records for men and women,” added Etukudo.