Kenyans, indeed East Africans have once again shown their prowess as top marathoners in the world by sweeping most of the medals at the 2nd Access Bank Lagos City Marathon.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that in the top 20 international category, Kenyans had 12 medals in the male and eight in the female.
They also dominated the first four positions in the male and female categories.
It is known globally that East Africans, especially the Kalenjins from Kenya have been dominating long distance races dating back to the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games.
The dominance started when Kalenjin runner Kipchoge Keino defeated world-record holder, Jim Ryun in the 1,500m race.
Kipchoge had to run in spite of a gall bladder infection. Since 1988, 20 of the 25 first-place men in the Boston Marathon have been Kenyans.
Kenyans are known to have less mass for their height, longer legs, shorter torsos, and more slender limbs which makes their body type suitable for long distance races.
At the 2nd Access Bank Lagos City Marathon on Feb. 11, Abraham Kiptom defended his title won with a time of 2.16:21, by posting a new time of 2:15:23 ahead of his compatriots, while Rhoda Tanui also won the female category.
No fewer than 64 foreign and 102 Nigerian elite athletes participated in the race which registered no fewer than 55,000.
In terms of security, the marathon was a success as the routes for the race were heavily policed by a combined team of all the security agencies even before the race started at 7 a.m.
The agencies are the Police, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), DSS and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) backed up by motorised patrol teams.
The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) was also seen ensuring that traffic followed the mapped out alternative routes so as not to cause gridlock and hardship for road users.
As at 7.54 a.m., many of the Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes have been spotted on the Third Mainland Bridge en route to the finish point and the Third Mainland Bridge through which they ran also has the security personnel, including the Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI).
Traffic was also well managed by LASTMA at Adekunle Junction and its environs were well checked against traffic violations.
Also ambulances and medical personnel were deployed at various points as well as following the runners, while commuters trekked to their destinations along the routes for the race.
Meanwhile, commercial motorcyclists seized the opportunity of the race to make brisk business, especially on Ikorodu road.
NAN also reports that the race was generally peaceful with fans lining the routes and taking photographs of the participants as they cheered the athletes.
The journalists accredited to cover the marathon were, however, maltreated by the Bouncers engaged by the race organisers, preventing them from carrying out their duties.
A Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) journalist had his camera smashed by the macho men and a reporter from the Punch Newspaper was also manhandled.
The journalists also complained about the accreditation tag which did not have a lot of areas filled in their accreditation forms.
The journalists were accredited to have access to the VIP area, Work Station, Mixed Zone and Press Conference Rooms but the macho men prevented them from accessing the VIP.
In terms of disseminating information to the media, it was poorly handled by the organisers who did not provide a mixed zone.
Hoodlums attacked officials of Seven Up Bottling Company, the official provider of refreshments, carting away table water packs and refreshments for the marathoners.
The officials were defenceless at the Palmgroove end of the race along Ikorodu road, where they were stationed to hand over drinks to the marathoners.
The hoodlums from the area overpowered the officials on duty and forced them to part with all the drinks on the stand at the point close to the Palmgroove Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) station.
Some of the athletes also complained that there was no water for them to drink at Km 4 and Km 5, noting that they were thirsty.
However, the bulk of the water provided was kept at Km 3 in spite of the promise by the organisers that there would be more water points.
It was to fans and runners delight that a seven-year-old girl, Damilola Oluwaseun, ran 10km of the 42km race.
Oluwaseun, who joined the race at 32km which is at the end of Lekki Bridge, said she was elated to have run 10km.
The organisers also ensure that the athletes were given fruits, food and drinks to quench their thirst and hunger immediately after the race at the medical arena at Eko Atlantic City which was the finish point.
Addressing particiapants, Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State, said the success of the tournament marked another leg of the government’s dreams to make Lagos State the destination for sports in Africa.
The governor said the state would continue to explore and attract regional, continental and global sports events to drive home its mission in youth and sports development, adding that the all round development of youths through sports remained paramount.
“Our commitment to continue to support our youth in sports development is resolute, a path that we cannot depart from.
“The Access Bank Lagos City Marathon is a testimony to this avowed commitment,’’ he said.
Mr Herbert Wigwe, the Managing Director of Access Bank, major sponsors of the event, said that apart from showcasing the fact that Lagos is truly a safe place, it had all the traits of world class tourney.
He said the marathon was also a pointer to the fact that Lagos was ready to receive the international world for business.
It is pertinent to note that innovations by the organisers include accommodation of physically challenged athletes in the race and paying an undisclosed amount for participating.
However, the Nigerian runners, who could not beat their international counterparts, say that there is nothing special about the East Africans, especially Kenyans.
The first runner-up in the Nigerian category Philibus Sharabutu who returned 2:31:17, told NAN that Kenyan marathoners excel because of right infrastructure.
“There is nothing special about their ability to excel, they have no special blood in them, it’s just that they have the right infrastructure to train and excel.
“The only noticeable difference between the Kenyans and Ethiopians and Nigerian runners is the infrastructure provided by the East African countries.
“There is nothing special about the Kenyans as far as I’m concerned. What is the difference between us? We are better candidates for marathon than they are.
“Nigeria can produce world beaters better than the East Africans because we also have a town that has the same altitude needed for marathon like them and that is Jos.
“We need high altitude training so as to keep fit and sometimes keep our perspiration on the right frame for the breathing exercise which will sustain us during races.
“If Kenyans are dominating the marathon, that is not our fault because we can do better if we have the facilities to train with. I repeat, no special blood in those East Africans,’’ he said.
The first place winner in the international category received 50,000 dollars, while the second place got 40,000 dollars and third place 30,000 dollars.
In the Nigerian category, the winner, Iliya Pam, was give N1 million while Sharabutu got N750,000. (NAN)