GOLDMINE BY Enefiok Udo Obong
There is no pother when it comes to who are kings of the distance races in Africa. Anyway, if there is one, Nigeria would not be in the discussion. We would watch enviously from the sidelines as the Kenyans, Ethiopians and Ugandans stake the claim for the crown in Africa and indeed the World. So when Maiyo Kareen Jibet and Mburu John led a cleansweep of Kenyan runners in the women and men’s race in the just concluded maiden Kaduna Marathon respectively, it was no surprise and actually no news. The big news is what really was won on the day.
Nigeria is a country of sprints. In figurative and literal terms. Figuratively, we like to rush. We rush to work, we rush to show political advances etc without big plans or visions for the future. When we build roads or infrastructure, we are more concerned about the immediate impact than the long term results. So we have the ‘sprint approach’. Which most times sees us feel ahead initially but lose out in the long run. We love immediate results at the risk sometimes of losing in the end.
Literally, we love sprint races. That fast outburst of energy and power that fuels our excitement. That very short race that gives us instant results. We have no patience for the long, tactical, well planned races that give us a slow start but successful finish after a long time. That is why we excel in the sprints in sports (100m, 200 and 400m) and do not even have patience for longer races like 5km, 10km and the marathon.
But no matter our preferences, we cannot change fact and we must be educated to this, So while the growth of the longer running and marathons is spreading through the country, (many thanks to the success of the Accessbank Lagos City Marathon promoted by Bukola Olapade and his Nilayo Sports group) we must understand what really we are taking part in so as not to be a mockery in the committee of nations.
The recently concluded Kaduna ‘Marathon’ was NOT a marathon. It was a half marathon and should be referred as thus. A marathon is an exact race. It is a race that has a distance of 42.195 km or 26.2 miles. This has been so since the 1908 Games in London the course was extended allegedly to accommodate the British royal family. As the story goes, Queen Alexandra requested that the race start on the lawn of Windsor Castle (so the littlest royals could watch from the window of their nursery, according to some accounts) and finish in front of the royal box at the Olympic Stadium—a distance that happened to be 26.2 miles. This distance has stuck ever since and in 1921 the length for a marathon was formally standardized at 26.2 miles (42.195 kilometers).
So a marathon is as exact as a dozen (12 not 11 or 13), a score (20) or a century (100). When it is not $2.195km it is NOT a marathon. We can have fractions of a marathon, for example the most common one is the half-marathon, which is 21.0975 km.
So we should understand that not all races are marathons as we seem to confuse ourselves in Nigeria. We have in the past seen adverts for “10km marathon, 20km marathon” and so on around the country. These are misnomers. These are merely road races. Road races are run on a measured course over an established road (as opposed to track and field and cross country running). These events are usually classified as long-distance according to athletics terminology, with races typically ranging from 5 kilometers to 42.2 kilometers in the marathon. They may involve large numbers of runners or wheelchair entrants. The four most common World Athletics recognized distances for “road running” events are 5K runs, 10K runs, half marathons and marathons.
The Kaduna ‘Marathon’ was a distance of 21.0975 km. So it is NOT a marathon but a half-marathon. This is what we should understand. Recently, half marathons ran in Imo State and Anambra State were advertised as marathons. This is errorneous and we should understand that.
Only after we have understood the basics and learnt this do we then hope to prepare for winning these races and be considered in the midst of road running nations. For now we have two World Athletics labelled races in Nigeria and the likes of Olapade’s Nilayo Sports and Itemuagbor’s Padmozi Sports have energized Nigerians into road running. A step further should be taken to educate Nigerians that like on the tracks, road running has various events. Then, we can eventually move from being generous hosts dolling out cash to excellent Kenyans to actually winning these races.
And yes, the education would be long and we have to be patient. A lot of unlearning would have to be done…and we know that it would not happen immediately, after all, it’s a marathon not a sprint.