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Athletes, officials hail organisation of inaugural Ijesha Grand Marathon

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Fadekemi Olude, winner of the women’s race at the Ijesha 10km road race flanked by Hauwa Aruna (left) and Joy Abiye (right) who came second and third respectively. Beside Abiye is sponsor of the race, Tijani Remilekun Usman.

Athletes and officials who participated in the first Ijesha Grand Marathon have hailed the organisation of the event.

Endorsed by the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, the race attracted the best of Nigerian road runners to the ancient but beautiful town of Ilesa, the capital of Ijeshaland, and the athletes say they are thrilled by the seamless organisation of the race which had a renowned coach and former Nigeria middle distance champion, Tony Osheku as race director.

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“This is one of the best 10km road races I have attended. It was well coordinated and I am particularly happy for the locals who came in their hundreds to participate,” says Adamu Shehu Muazu who won the men’s race and the accompanying ₦400,000 top prize money.

“This will help in the development of road races in this part of the country. I am sure with more races like this, Ilesa can produce a few long-distance runners who can represent Nigeria in continental and international road running events,” added Adamu.

Fadekemi Olude, one of the best female road race and walk runners Nigeria has ever produced in recent years is also thrilled by the organisation of the race.

“This is one of the very few road races in Nigeria that we had great security, especially on the course. In some races, you will be competing with motorcycles (Okada) and even cars but here (Ilesa), there was nothing of such,” says Olude who won the women’s title and was rewarded with ₦400,000 as the top prize money.

Renowned long-distance coach, Stephen Nuhu, also expressed his delight at the organization of the race.

“This is perfect. I congratulate organisers of the race for a great event,” said Nuhu, arguably Nigeria’s best long-distance coach.

Many of the locals who participated also had fine words for both the race director, Osheku and the sponsor, Tijani Remilekun Usman.

Adebayo Adeoluwa, Ojediran Samuel, Ariyo Temitope and Obuo John (who hails from Benue state but was raised in Ilesa) all returned under one hour and want the event to be held annually.

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“We are excited to be running alongside the best road race runners in Nigeria. This is historic and we are glad to be part of this history,” they chorused.

Tijani Usman, whose company Beltij Nigeria Limited bankrolled the event, says he is delighted Ilesa stood still for the race.

“I am the happiest Ijesha man today. The happiness I am seeing on the faces of Ijesha youths here and those I saw on the route has reassured me that we can redirect the energies of our youth to productive endeavours,” he said at the prize-giving ceremony after the race.

The 10km road race started at the Ilesa stadium in Irojo and terminated at the ultramodern palace of the Owa Obokun of Ijesha land, His Royal Majesty, Oba (Dr) Gabriel Adekunke Aromolaran.

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