For most people, running a marathon is not something that will be considered a hobby, because it certainly takes a lot of grit, endurance and determination to complete. However, for the Road Warriors Club, running marathons is a way of life, with some of them even stretching the limits by running ultramarathons like the Comrades in South Africa, which is 89km!
The club is made up of almost 100 professionals within Nigeria and abroad, closely-knit together by their love for fitness, running and adventure, and within them, have run about 500 marathons across prominent cities all over the world.
Founder and Chairman of the club, Chukwuka Emuwa, tells us it all began during the 2012 ‘Occupy Nigeria’ protests in different parts of the country, Lagos inclusive, which came about as a result of the fuel subsidy removal during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan:
“I started this club with a friend of mine, Ugochukwu Ikemba known as F1, in January 2012 and it’s been going strong ever since. On 2nd January, 2012, we had ‘Occupy Lagos’. We started walking as there was nothing else to do. From walking, we started running and then the rest is history. Our friends started joining us, and then we started formalizing things.
“We now have 94 members worldwide; some of them are in South Africa and in different states in the US, the UK, and one in Egypt. The rest of us are here in Lagos and then Abuja, and everyone gets given a Warrior name when they join the club. My Warrior name is ‘Consistency’.”
When asked what the motivation has been in terms of running marathons, Club Captain, Danladi Verheijen whose Warrior name is ‘Da Veast’, and is the CEO and cofounder of private equity firm, Verod Capital, had this to say:
“It’s a good question. There is no rational reason. It’s one of those irrational things you do; maybe just say it’s on a bucket list. Life is short, why not? It’s an experience; what’s the worst that could happen?”
He tells us how he became a member of the Road Warriors Running Club: “I’ve been running for about four or five years now. I started running shorter distances, then running longer and longer distances particularly after I met this running club – the Road Warriors, a group of professionals who like to have fun and enjoy themselves.
“I have participated in the Lagos City Marathon from inception, and also run the marathons in Boston, New York, Chicago, Amsterdam, Berlin, Tokyo and two ultramarathons in South Africa: Comrades and Two Oceans.
“I love to run some marathons for charity, so I’ve managed to raise some money for a charity that supports widows and orphans. I’m running the London Marathon at the end of April in support of a charity, and then Berlin Marathon in September, and Lagos next year in support of charity as well, just to provide additional meaning to this strange thing I love to do with my friends.”
Gbemi Abudu a.k.a ‘Gbeyonce’, sells private jets for a living and joined the Road Warriors in 2016. She considers that one of the best decisions she has made, and tells Making of Champions why:
“I actually didn’t know about the club to be honest”, she said. “I just used to run at about the same time they did so some of their members were like ‘Why don’t you join us because you usually run at about the same time we do’, so I went through the process and I joined the club. It’s been fantastic being around people who are not just dedicated to fitness, but all-round wellness. Also it’s a family; everyone has a vested interest in everyone’s life so for me I consider it a social club and my second family here in Lagos.”
Asides running marathons, one of Abudu’s favourite interests is hiking:
“One of the things that I actually picked up from college is climbing mountains, hiking. I’ve hiked several mountains across different parts of the world but the two that stand out are Mount Sinai and my most recent one, which was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my life – climbing Mountain Machu Picchu in Peru, which is about 10,000 feet above sea level, and the last hour was so steep that at one point, I’ve never been that scared in my life because if you make a mis-step, you die”, she said.
“People ask me why I hike mountains but to me it’s a perfect metaphor for life. When you’re doing a difficult task, it seems very daunting. When you look at a mountain and you see how high it is, you feel like there is no way you can make it to the top, but there’s that feeling of satisfaction when you summit; that’s one goal, but you still have to make it down, and when you get down you’re like ‘I don’t believe I just did that’. I love doing it and my next challenge is Kilimanjaro.”
Affiong Williams whose Warrior name is ‘Affiku’, runs her own company, Reelfruit, a brand that offers healthy dry fruit snacks around Nigeria and abroad. She takes us down memory lane as to how her romance with running marathons began.
She said, “I have been an official member of Road Warriors for about four years now, but I have been running for almost a decade. I was always somebody who tried to be fit and exercise from a young age as a teenager, so running was the next step for me. I was sort of bored at the gym and wanted to challenge myself so I started running and then I signed up for a marathon and after that, the rest was history.
My first marathon was the Soweto marathon in South Africa. I’ve been fortunate because running has taken me around the world: I’ve done New York, Berlin, Paris is my favourite, and last year I broke my record in Amsterdam. I’ve done Lagos and Ife obviously. I’ve also done one ultramarathon, which was a 56km race in South Africa; I do have plans to do Comrades and all the longer distances.”
The Road Warriors were faced with a tricky situation this past weekend, considering that the Lagos City Marathon was to hold on Saturday, February 2nd, while the Ife Marathon in Osun State was to take place the following day, with about 17 members penciled to run both races.
Jerry Ikazoboh a.k.a ‘Springa’, a Business owner who runs Kerildbert Logistics, a family owned 3rd Party Logistics Company, and has run marathons in Berlin, Amsterdam, Lagos, Ife, as well as the Comrades in South Africa, was the one that suggested that the Road Warriors go for both events:
“So I was the crazy one who actually suggested that we do both Lagos and Ife in the first place; they call them back-to-back. When we found out it was one race after the other, we thought ‘Why not? Let’s try it, it’s just another challenge’. And then people caught the bug and a lot of people are doing it now. It’s not about setting records when you are doing that kind of a run. It’s about pushing the boundaries about what you have done before for yourself, not for anybody.”
Ikazoboh raced in both marathons in support of charity, raising funds for the Christian Care for Widows and the Aged (CCWA) in the process.
Gbenga Showole a.k.a ‘G55’, an Engineer based in the US, actually flew into Nigeria just to compete in both the Lagos and Ife Marathons. For him, it is all about supporting your own.
He said, “You have to support your home town race, that’s why I’m here for Lagos and Ife. Lagos is actually one of my favourite marathons. It’s a hard marathon because it’s hot, especially the third mainland bridge, which is a long distance, but the people are great; the people come out to cheer the runners and you see a very positive side of the city that people don’t report about, people supporting each other, people having a good time.
“The Lagos Marathon is my 36th marathon. I have also raced in New York, Beijing, Two Oceans, Washington DC, Detroit, Cincinnati, Dallas, and Philadelphia. I have done Comrades (89km) three times. They have something called the green number, and once you’ve done eight Comrades, you become a green number. It’s a special class of ultramarathoners. I’ve done three, and the other Nigerians I know have done one or two. I’m hoping to stay healthy and fit and keep doing it every year and try to be the first Nigerian to get the green number.”
Ngozi Madueke-Dozie a.k.a ‘Slayer’ is the General Manager of Kwese iFlix and joined the Road warriors about five years ago. She’s run marathons in Chicago, Athens, Rome, and hopes to do Paris and Capetown this year.
She said, “I’ve always run and at the time I was running with Femi and he started running with Road Warriors. That kind of got me into the bandwagon. Running with a running group intensifies your dedication and commitment to running and stretches you in terms of your limit. Whatever you thought you could or could not do, you get to find out in a club like this.
“I didn’t think much about doing both the Lagos and Ife Marathons, because if I did common sense would prevail. A lot of people wanted to do the Ife Marathon but it just happened that they both came up on the same weekend, and we’ve never not run the Lagos Marathon so what do we do? And then some genius said maybe we can run both. I thought, ‘That doesn’t make any sense’. But somehow we decided that was the sensible thing to do.”
Femi Sholebo a.k.a ‘The Force’ runs an infrastructure power company in Port Harcourt and has been a part of Road Warriors for about five years. He’s participated in nearly 20 marathons including Paris, Madrid, Cape Town, London, Chicago, New York, Dubai, Kigali, Lagos, Ife, Vienna and Berlin.
“I used to run quite a bit by myself, not as much as we do now obviously, and I used to see the Road Warriors run by the other side of the road. It was a smaller group then. I used to have some friends who were the early members. It was pretty easy to join because it was a good social network and a good business network so the running just made it easier.
“Doing the Lagos and Ife Marathons was a challenge because we’ve never done anything like this before; at least some of us haven’t. I did an ultramarathon a couple of years ago in Cape Town – 56km. I would do the ultra again, absolutely, but the extreme one is 90km. I haven’t done that yet and I’m not sure at 50 years old I want to do that.”
South African couple Anthony and Berene Yankovich-Besan met through running. In an interesting twist, Anthony opted for the Lagos Marathon while Berene settled for the Ife Marathon. That way, the family was represented in both events. Berene, who is a Consumer Behavior Scientist, had this to say about her sojourn with the Road Warriors:
“I’m probably the newest member. I joined in August/September last year. I’ve loved it. Fantastic people, I love the spirit, I love how everyone teases each other. I opted for the Ife Marathon because I have never done it before. I would have done both if they were different weekends, but to do both in one weekend, I’m not brave enough.
“I love the Lagos Marathon too and I found the people enroute interesting and the craziness of it; it’s not like any other marathon. Lagos is very special. You know Lagos is the Centre of Excellence. The big thing about Lagos is about the mass participation; they encourage everybody to come and run, and Lagos is the only place when you get to the end, there is someone who wants to sell you a medal.”
Amazingly, for Adedayo Adegoke, a Yoga Teacher and Oil and Gas Entrepreneur who has run marathons in Amsterdam, Berlin, South Africa, Miami, New York, Athens, Lagos and a few other unofficial marathons, running two marathons within 24 hours is not a tall order as it is all about challenging oneself.
Adegoke, who is fondly referred to as ‘Da Yoga’, said, “Why not? For me it’s really about pushing the envelope, which I don’t think we do enough in Nigeria, so if we can do things that seem extraordinary but are not really extraordinary, why not? Outside of Nigeria, it is not extraordinary to run two marathons back-to-back, and so for us it’s about experimenting and seeing how far we can explore human potential in terms of endurance, and just try and discover what we are made of.
“When you do the Comrades, it’s two marathons plus because it is 89km, and some of us have run it twice already in South Africa, so for those of us who have done Comrades at 89km, running back-to-back marathons is not such a big deal.”
Interestingly, Adegoke finished 3rd (male) at the Ife Marathon a day after running at the Lagos Marathon!
Unfortunately, things don’t always turn out the way we propose. Verheijen, who was initially supposed to run in both the Lagos and Ife Marathons, had to pull out of the latter after being injured while competing at the Lagos Marathon, underlining the fact that running marathons is not the easiest of hobbies.
Speaking about his experience at the Lagos Marathon, he said: “It was very painful, I’m just glad it’s over. I ended up getting cramps along the way, towards the end actually, the last kilometre, which took me 30 minutes to cover. I needed medical attention and volunteers by the side of the road, as well as other Road Warriors, helped me and supported me to walk through the finish line.
“I didn’t think that it would be wise to run the Ife Marathon given my experience in Lagos. But this is unfinished business: I’ll be back next year.”