Deji Ogeyingbo wrote this piece about the growth of the Lagos Marathon and how it is gaining prestige in Africa. It is a good read and provides much for thought.
After six years of progress, the Lagos Marathon is proving to be a shining light amongst the rest in Africa
Running a marathon is seen as the ultimate when it comes to long-distance running. The goal for the most part is more of finishing the 42.2km course rather than being competitive. Pushing beyond your limits, trying hard to complete the race, running for charity-these are some of the mantras that have been associated with a marathon from its inception, as top cities in the world have inculcated these values into organizing one.
Africa is the home of long-distance running. As seen by some of its elite runners who have dominated races all over the world, the continent also boasts some of the best marathons in the World, like the Cape town Marathon, Victoria Falls Marathon, Kilimanjaro marathon, Lagos Marathon, and many others.
Lagos, one that prides itself as Africa’s most populous city as well as the commercial hub of the continent did not have a World athletics labeled marathon until 2015. Hard as is it to believe, rather more fascinating is the brief period it has taken the organizers to catch up with some of the world’s best marathons.
“It was the third race in the World to get a World Athletics Label after the first edition which took place in 2015. Also, it attained the silver label after four years,” says Yusuf Ali the General manager of the Lagos Marathon.
The inaugural edition of the Lagos Marathon was run by a small, competitive field in February 2015 and the event has grown steadily ever since, developing into a top city marathon that brings together world runners, from elite athletes to amateur runners, as well as first-time and social runners.
There are bigger marathons in the world; faster ones, too. But there remains something innovative about Lagos. Having over 80 elite runners and runners who have clocked 2:04 coming to the party this year, it adds for more spectacle and potentially helps its standing to get to a Gold Label and join the Cape town Marathon as the only two races to have achieved that feat. In the case of the Lagos marathon, it would have just taken it eight years compared to Cape town’s nine.
Events need to jump through several World athletics hoops to secure the Gold Label‚ among them a stipulation that they invite‚ from a minimum of five countries‚ at least five male and five female runners who have run qualifying times in the 36 months before the race. For men, the marathon qualifying time is 2:10:00 while for women it’s 2:28:00.
“We have taken every step required by World athletics, the issue of having a very good elite field, having transponder tapes along the route in order to curb cheating, and at the same time, we ensure we run on time,” Ali said.
The precision, adaptability, and continuity have been some of the strands that continue to propel the race, and the organizers understand that. The route itself, which commences at the National Stadium, Surulere, and ends at the Eko Atlantic offers runners some of the most spectacular scenery of Lagos as it transcends from the mainland into the Island. It’s a marathon that’s worthwhile as it also combines some of the most stunning scenery in West Africa.
Usually taking place around February, this year’s edition is slated for the 12th as the weather is just after the harmattan period in Lagos. The city usually comes alive after the fun-loving period of the holidays in December; the flowers start sprinkling the sidewalks, the hustling getting back into full gear, and it is just the perfect time to do a race.
Cool mornings, beautiful sunny days, and many supporters along the route! It is some of the best weather in Lagos for a long-distance running event. The marathon is designed, not only to take in Lagos’ spectacular natural beauty but also to enable runners to traverse the City’s rich sites.
Running for various charities like the fight against cancer, Stigma on HIV, autism, the Lagos marathon is one of the few races in the world that inculcate these courses. However, because of the issue Covid-19, there has been a step down on that for a year now, but Ali, who is Nigeria’s Long Jump record holder, says it will get back into full swing next year.
Another thrill of the Lagos marathon is the entertainment at the end of the race. Being one of the entertainment nerve centers of the continent, delighting the participants with a calming effect of music and art brings people together, one that spurs most entrants to be a part of the race.
When it comes to on-site media coverage for a single-day sports event in Nigeria, only the Super Eagles of Nigeria get more attention. In other words, on Marathon Saturday all eyes are on Lagos.
So, the Lagos marathon is extremely special in its own way, one that has seen grown asymmetrically in terms of results, drawing huge crowds, and etching its name into the history books.