The 2019 edition of the annual Access Bank Lagos City Marathon has just been concluded, which was won by Suntayahu Legese of Ethiopia in the men’s event, and Dinke Meseret of same country, Ethiopia, to the disappointment of many Nigerians.
Legese triumphed in a time of 02:17:28hrs just ahead of Joshua Kipkorir (02:18:16hrs) and William Yegon (02:19:04hrs), both from Kenya, who placed second and third respectively at the event sanctioned by the IAAF, the International Association of Athletics Federations.
In the female event, Dinke Meseret, the first position, finished in 02:48:02hrs, while the second and third postions were taken by Alemnesh Herepa (02:49:05 hours) and Kebena Chala (02:49:09 hours), both from the winner’s country of Ethiopia.
The first Nigerian to finish was Sunday Manasa, ending the race in 02:21:11 hours, to take the sixth position in the men’s race, and same position was won by a Nigerian in the female event, with Deborah Pam (02:52:59hrs) emerging as Nigeria’s best performer.
Despite the fairness and transparency of the entire race, Nigerians have taken to social media to express their disappointment about the prize money constantly ‘leaving the country’, and going to other countries, and not Nigerians – the hosts of the event. Their argument is that Access Bank and the Lagos State Government, organisers of the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon, should restrict the Kenyans and Ethiopians from participating. We have decided to explain in summary, why this would be a terrible decision.
Firstly, there is a body called the IAAF – the International Association of Athletics Federations. This body is the International governing body for all athletics.
In 2008, they designated the ‘leading road races in the world’ as the IAAF Road Race Label Events. These are the Gold, Silver, and Bronze Labels available for all marathons globally. Of the 800 marathons that are held each year, only 3 races in the entire continent of Africa, have labels: the Cape Town Marathon of South Africa with a Gold Label, and the Marathon Du Gabon and Access Bank Lagos City Marathons of Gabon and Nigeria retrospectively, with Bronze Labels.
What Access Bank and the Lagos State Government are trying to do, is get the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon, to Gold Label status. This will never be certified by the IAAF, without the elite athletes from Kenya and Ethiopia present. They are who give the race, that international touch required for labels, and place the race on the global map. Remove them, and the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon, is just another local competition.
To achieve label status, the IAAF has specified that:
1. all three categories have what the IAAF describes as an international elite field, that requires at least five nations (four for Bronze) to be represented by runners with times faster than the IAAF’s guidelines.
2. the race course be closed to vehicular traffic, and measured to the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) standard, with full electronic timing used to generate the results.
3. the race be organised in a way that minimizes ecological damage to the surrounding areas.
4. a specified number of doping tests be carried out.
5. prize money for the participants be equal, irrespective of gender or nationality, though additional rewards can be given to runners from the host nation.
The Access Bank Lagos City Marathon took advantage of this point, to create a special 10km race, open to only Nigerians.
For the record, it’s not ‘a thing’ for Nigerians to lose to Kenyans and Ethiopians. Below is a snapshot of the top 25 marathon world record holders. Note their countries of origin.
Yes, only 2 countries – Kenya and Ethiopia appear on the list of 25 best marathon runners ever!
The Labels are considered a “prestigious” award by race organisers, and include the six marathon majors. Access Bank and the Lagos State Government, have their eyes, on international recognition, and therefore, HAVE to include these guys that are present in all the world renowned marathons.
We either continue to enjoy the 10km race meant for Nigerians, train harder and give the Kenyans and Ethiopians a run for their (our) money, or just forget about the labels, and leave the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon as a local race. We doubt that Access Bank and the Lagos State Government would want the latter.