Road race as empowerment tool for athletes in Ogun State
Across the globe, researchers have proven that Road races is one of the greatest ways of keeping people healthy, improved immunity, aids better sleep and longer life due to cardiovascular fitness, better body composition, lower cholesterol, excellent glucose, insulin control, stronger bones and better hormone regulation it adds to the neurological functioning of the body.
While some suggest that taking part in Road races is good for the knees and lower parts of the body, others say it adds some number of years to the life of every participant. A 2018 meta-analysis of research on running and longevity found that people who take part in Road races have about 25 to 30 percent lower rates of all-cause mortality than non-runners.
For the people of Ogun State, particularly Governor Dapo Abiodun, the decision to key into three Road races is not only to boost the socio-economic well being of the people, but also to eradicate poverty, and at the same time increase the awareness of active participation in sports among the youths.
Three years ago, the Rock City of Abeokuta witnessed an unprecedented number of visitors, as over 5,000 athletes from different parts of the country invaded the town for the maiden Abeokuta City Marathon. The 10km road race, which was held on November 2, 2019, gave some of the athletes the opportunity of seeing some beautiful parts of the city, including the Alake’s Palace. The excitement that greeted the Abeokuta City Marathon had not died down before Nilayo Sports Management Company, in collaboration with the Ogun State government, came up with the Ijebu International Half Marathon also in 2019. A new one, Remo Value-Jet Ultra Marathon, which is Nigeria’s first Ultramarathon race, has been added.
The outbreak of COVID-19 pandemics, which crippled sporting activities across the globe since March 2020, also affected a lot of events in Nigeria. But the Chief Executive Officer of Nilayo Sports Management, Bukola Olopade, and his team look set for the 2021 edition of the three road races.
While the Ijebu Heritage International Half Marathon is fixed for July 17, the Abeokuta City 10km Race is scheduled for November 13. The Remo Value-Jet IAU African Championship will hold on December 14, 2021.
The countdown to the Ijebu Heritage Half Marathon has begun, and many athletes see it as an opportunity to showcase their talent since they could not make the party to the Tokyo Olympics.
The event, which is endorsed by World Athletics (WA), International Association of Marathons and Distance Races, as well as the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), has 40 Elite Runners and over 5,000 local athletes already confirmed for the race on July 17. It is a 21km half-marathon on one side, as well as 10km and 5km races featured concurrently, on the other side.
Some of the athletes who spoke with The Guardian during the week commended Governor Dapo Abiodun for his love for Road races and the commitment of his administration to empower and engage the youths.
“To key into three Road races in one particular state shows the kind of determination Governor Dapo Abiodun has towards empowering the youths, not only in Ogun state but the entire country,” foremost Nigerian marathoner, Emmanuel Gyang, stated.
Another athlete, Vera Yohanna, who won the female category at the maiden Kaduna City Marathon earlier this year, urges other governors and corporate organisations in the country to emulate Governor Dapo Abiodun by supporting Road races.
To make the Ijebu Heritage Half Marathon live up to the expectations of Nigerians, Ogun State Commissioner of Sports, Dare Kehinde, says everyone involved in its organisation is working towards the July 17 date.
Speaking on behalf of the state government, the Commissioner said that sports are one of the 5-cardinal points agenda of Dapo Abiodun’s administration. “When the Governor came on board, he rolled out 5-cardinal points agenda, which include youths engagement and empowerment. Apart from using Road races as one of the ways to engaging the youths, it also creates enabling environment for other sporting activities to thrive.”
Dare Kehinde confirmed that all the Road races in Ogun State, Abeokuta marathon, Remo Ultramarathon, and Ijebu Heritage Half marathon are now fixed events under the sports calendar in the state.
He continued, “These activities are already in our work plan for the year and Ijebu Heritage marathon captures the plans of the Governor.”
On his part, the CEO of Nilayo Sports Management, former Ogun Sports Commissioner, Bukola Olopade expressed his appreciation to Governor Dapo Abiodun and the people of the state for their unflinching support towards the Ijebu Heritage Half marathon and other road races right from its conception.
“We thank Ogun State government through the ministry of sports for also endorsing and supporting this race in so many ways. We will do everything possible to make the event successful.”
According to Olopade, Kenya’s Bernard Sang, who breasted the tape at the 2020 Istanbul Marathon is among the international athletes coming for the event. Others include Kenya’s Hosea Chirchir Kiplimo, Rhonzas Lokitam Kilimo, Eliud Mewangi, Sammy Nyokaye, John Muriuri Mburi, William Amponsah, Titus Kipruto Kibiego, and Paul Koech.
Also listed is Uganda’s Ezekiel Chepkoromk, with a personal best of 01:01:46, and Azerbaijan’s Desta Fitsun Weldu.
The women’s category is also dominated by Kenyans including Shila Jepkosgei, who is a World Athletics gold-label runner with a Personal Best of 01:10:58, Gladys Jepkemoi Chemweno, Caern Jebet Maiyo, Ruth Karanja, Susy Chebet Chemaimak and Hannah Wanjiru Gatheru.
Uganda’s Racheal Zena Chebet with a Personal Best of 01:10:13 and Bahrain’s Damaris Muthee Mutua with a personal best of 01:10:13 will also be running in Ijebu.
The Ijebu Heritage Half Marathon, which is scheduled for July 17 (six days to the Tokyo Olympics) will starts at Tunde Debasco Road, Ejirin and ends at Otunba Dipo Dina International Stadium.
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