History was made at the 4th edition of the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon held on February 2nd, as an Ethiopian emerged winner of the men’s category of the 42km race for the first time since 2016.
The Kenyans had dominated the men’s event in past editions. However, Sintayehu Legesse found the energy to go past Kenya’s Joshua Kipkori to win the star prize of $50,000 with a time of 2:17.27. It was complete dominance by the East African nation as the women’s event was won by Ethiopia’s Meseret Dinkie in 2:48.10.
Speaking to reporters after the race, Legesse expressed happiness at beating the Kenyans on Saturday.
He said, “When I go into a race, I don’t consider those running with me. I always focus on winning, and that is what happened today. The time wasn’t as fast as I would have wanted and it was quite challenging because of the humidity. However, I am happy to be the first ever Ethiopian male champion, although the waiting period was quite long and should have happened earlier”.
His compatriot Dinkie targeted breaking the record but will have to leave that feat for another day. She said, “This is my first time here and I’m grateful to God for the victory. Winning both categories makes us very happy. I was here to break the course record but that didn’t happen unfortunately.”
Deborah Pam was the first Nigerian woman to cross the line and was the 6th fastest woman overall, returning a time of 2:52.59 to claim her second consecutive title.
In the 10km Wheelchair race, US-based Omojola Olarinde won the men’s title, while Nkiruka Okoro dominated the women’s event. Olarinde, who flew into Nigeria from New Jersey for the event, revealed the factors that gave him an edge over his competitors:
“I expected to win because I’m the only pro in our category; also, my wheelchair is superior. I have been competing in more races than the home based athletes who only train without competing. I have competed in the New York Marathon, Chicago Marathon and Boston Marathon. I am really excited because when you come all the way here and lose, it’s a bit of a shame to you. The guy who came 2nd gave me a good fight”, he said.
Olarinde also appealed to the organisers to increase the winning prizes of the Wheelchair category so as to encourage the physically challenged athletes. He said:
“Everyone is a human being and we all train; this wheelchair I am using costs about $6000, so we spend a lot on our equipment. We are appealing to the organisers to increase the prize monies and also the number of athletes that can benefit from the cash awards.
“Last year, we were not publicly presented with our prizes here, unlike the able bodied athletes; our names weren’t even mentioned. So we hope that we are treated better in future.”
Okoro was delighted with her win and hopes to be exposed to international competitions in the near future. She said:
“I worked hard for it but I didn’t expect to win. You can see that I even shed tears when I came 1st. The Access Bank Marathon has exposed me, so I will be happy if I am exposed to international competitions.
“Yesterday, when one of the sponsors announced that winners would get a plot of land, it boosted my morale and I kept wondering how I was going to do it. Just from a race now I have won N1m and a plot of land. I am very grateful to the organizers.”