Activities came to a standstill in the Centre of Excellence as the long awaited Access Bank Lagos City Marathon was the cynosure of all eyes, with Kenya making it a 1-2 in the men’s event as Abraham Kiptum emerged winner of the $50,000 star prize in 2:16.19, while kinsman Hosea Kipkemboi followed in 2:16.34. Ethiopia’s Tolosa Debebe was relegated to 3rd place with a time of 2:16.40.
Kiptum said, “This is my first time in Nigeria and I am happy I won the race. I am excited that we beat the Ethiopians because we trained for this competition. God willing I will want to come back next year to try and win again. The prize money will aid my training.”
Philibus Sharubutu stunned Emmanuel Gyang to become the first Nigerian to cross the finishing line in a Personal Best (PB) of 2:31.41, with Iliya Pam (2:37.21) and Peter Maham (2:39.07) following in 2nd and 3rd positions respectively. Even though it was hoped that a Nigerian would make it into the Top 10 finishers, it was not to be as Sharubutu placed 18th overall, thus missing out on the dollar largesse.
That notwithstanding, he will be consoled by his N1million cash prize as the host nation’s No.1 man. It was a reversal of fortunes for Gyang who had been tipped to take the top spot on the Nigerian team; indeed the Plateau State indigene had given the East Africans a good chase, and was even in contention for a top spot overall.
However, he later revealed that he succumbed to a hamstring injury 35km into the 42km race, thus forfeiting his lead. Sharubutu who is from Nassarawa State said, “I’m very happy to have won and I am proud of what I achieved. I am also grateful that the organisers didn’t limit the prize monies to only the first three athletes; this means that my other colleagues will also be able to take something home.
“I am also glad that I defeated Gyang. He is an old athlete; we are the younger set that are taking over, because no one will be a champion forever. I will also be beaten someday. In future we would love to be placed in a closed camp for a long period of time so that we would be able to beat the East Africans. The gap right now is too much”, the 27-year old said.
The Ethiopians claimed their pound of flesh in the women’s race as Halima Hussein Kayo led the pack in 2:38.36, while Alice Timbilil of Kenya followed in 2:38.49; Aberash Feyase of Ethiopia clocked a time of 2:39.09 to take 3rd position.
The first Nigerian female finisher was Olamide Oluwaseun who went home with N1million for that feat, while Dinatu Yohanna placed 2nd.
The race was flagged off by the Minister of Sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung, and the Lagos State Governor Akinwumi Ambode at the starting point, the National Stadium in Surulere. Other dignitaries who were present at the event and waited to receive the runners at the finishing point, the Eko Atlantic City, include the President of the Confederation of Africa Athletics (CAA), Kalkaba Malboum and Chief of Army Staff, Major General Tukur Buratai.
Chairman of the Local Organising Committee and Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Sports, Deji Tinubu said: “We are relieved and happy that it went well. Planning for this competition has been very challenging; a lot of work has gone into this. We wanted to showcase Lagos because we aspire to be a megacity, so we put the athletes in a good hotel.
“The hospitality was good, so the foreign athletes will go away with good memories of Lagos. I think we covered enough for the first attempt. We will start planning for that of next year immediately. We also hope that the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon kick starts other movements, such as people taking better interest in running, and adopting a healthier lifestyle.