The Ethiopians who participated in the City Marathon competed so well to take the top prizes of the 42km race that took place in Lagos, southwest Nigeria. This edition of the Lagos Marathon which has taken place every year since 2016, after over 30 years of absence kicked off at 6 am on February 12 with over 30,000 runners in attendance.
The Access Bank-sponsored Marathon is an elite-labeled athletic fiesta held on the second weekend of February every year in Lagos and draws participation from local and international teams in the athletic ecosystem.
In addition to the residents of Lagos, the Marathon attracted professionals such as Ethiopian Runner Ulfata Geleta who won the men’s category, and his compatriot Dagne Siranesh.
Geleta who finished as the first runner-up at last year’s edition moved up this time to emerge as the proud winner of the $30,000 first prize money.
Though the Ethiopian’s winning time of 2.11.54 sec was short of the Course Record set in the 2020 edition, it is the second-fastest ever in the history of the annual 42km road race.
The Kenyan duo of David Barmasai and Emmanuel Naibei settled for second and third places respectively. Barmasai and Naibei went home with $20,000 and $15,000, respectively for their efforts at this year’s race.
In the women category, Ethiopian Dagne’s winning time was 2 hours 33 minutes, and 50 seconds. She was followed in second place by compatriot Alemenseh Guta and Kenya’s Naomi Maiyo in third place.
This is only the second time for an Ethiopian to win both the male and female categories of the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon. Speaking at the end of the race, the Ethiopian champion showed his enthusiasm for coming to Lagos to better his lot in the long-distance race.
“I was impressed with the organization of the tournament, as there is improvement in terms of the organization from what I saw here last year. Definitely, I strongly believe that next year is going to be better than what we witnessed here this year,” he said after collecting the prize money that was jointly handed to him by Babajide Sanwo-Olu the Governor of Lagos State, and Sunday Dare the Nigerian Minister of Sports.
The Ethiopian promised to come back next year with the intention of improving his performance.
“There is always room for improvement and come next year, I will try to better what I did this year. Last year, I was the first runner-up but this year I came first and by God’s grace, next year, I will want to improve on my performance,” he vowed.
In the Nigeria category, Shehu Muazu and Fadekemi Olukemi were the top finishers who won the N1m (USD23,952) prize monies set aside for indigenous athletes.
The 2022 race was full of excitement with the participation of Governor Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State. The Governor teamed up with his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, Sunday Dare Minister for Sport and Youth Development, Philip Shuaibu Deputy Governor of Edo State, and Hakeem Muri-Okunola Lagos Head of Service to participate in the symbolic flag-off. Others at the symbolic flag-off were Shola Aiyepeku Chairman of Lagos State Sports Commission (LSSC) and Gafaar Bolowotan, LSSC Director-General among others.
At exactly 8:03 am, Governor Sanwo-Olu crossed the finish line of the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon, ceremonially becoming the first athlete to breast the final ribbon.
Mr. Sanwo-Olu took off from the State House in Marina, jogging through highways to Eko Atlantic City; the finish line to cover 8km distance in 40 minutes.
An elated Sanwo-Olu, who saw the huge participation, said the event had consistently placed Lagos on the global radar, noting that the sporting fiesta had become a yearly ritual for athletes.
The Governor said the Marathon embodied the spirit of Lagos, which teaches endurance, perseverance, and resilience while toiling through physical strength.
He said: “One of the objectives of this event is to put Lagos on a global platform in the area of sport. Every year, new records are broken, and the Marathon gets bigger and better. As a government, we are fully committed to sustaining this noble initiative and leading from the front to ensure that all participants, especially, our youths, get the best from this event.
“I acknowledge the great work which Access Bank and all other sponsors have put in to make this edition a success. The goal of the Marathon is to use sport as a tool to promote physical fitness, togetherness, resilience, and every virtue that can make human beings progress and live fulfilling lives. This is the strongest rallying point for our youths and the next edition would be better than what we have had this year.”
Mr. Sanwo-Olu pledged his government would be relentless in raising the status of the Marathon to a platinum-labeled event to attract more participants beyond Africa.
This, the Governor said, would open the State’s economy to more foreign investment and boost tourism revenue for operators in the sector.
Mr. Sanwo-Olu said the decision of Kenyan Airways, a global aviation brand, to be one of the sponsors of the event this year indicates that the Marathon would bring more tourism opportunities to Lagos if it attained platinum level.
“We target the next two years to get this marathon to the platinum level, which means the event would be fully globalized. When this is achieved, every second weekend in February becomes calendarized for this Marathon, and Lagos would become a place to be and a destination for all sports enthusiasts,” the Governor said.
Presenting the prizes to the winners, Mr. Sanwo-Olu encouraged participants from Nigeria to prepare themselves for the first prizes in next year’s edition.
Meanwhile, Youth and Sports Development Minister, Sunday Dare assured that Nigeria’s fortunes at the annual Access Bank Lagos City Marathon would improve once the country’s High-Performance Centres begin full operation.
Mr. Dare said the Sports Ministry and the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) would work together to ensure that Nigerians become more competitive in long-distance races.
“Our plan is to ensure that Nigerians do not just make up the numbers but also enjoy podium finishes in long-distance races. We are reviving some of the programmes that will make this happen.
“We are also going to get our High-Performance Centres fully operational. We have a centre in Pankshin, Plateau State, and another one in Taraba State.
“Hopefully in the next few editions of this Marathon, we would have a Nigerian clean sweep of the podium places,” he promised.