Nigeria: Onitsha joins the marathon frenzy, hosts city race in October
By Taiwo Adelu
London, August 22, 2019 (AltAfrica) – The train of long distance race is gradually spreading across Nigeria as major cities in the country are now hosting international marathon races.
The city of Lagos, the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria was the trailblazer with the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon. There was the Ibadan city Marathon and the forthcoming Abeokuta 10km Marathon in Ogun State, all in the southwest region of the country.
The south eastern part of Nigeria has joined the frenzy with the maiden Onitsha City Marathon, scheduled to host on Saturday, 5 October, 2019.
The Onitsha City Marathon is tagged the ‘project of the people of the eastern region’ going by the plans of the organisers, the Onitsha Business School in conjunction with the Anambra State Government and other partners..
With over 10 million residents including those from sisters towns like Asaba, Oba, Obosi, Nwelle Ezunka, Fegge, Woliwo, Odoakpu, Awada and others, as well as runners from other parts of the country and the international athletes, the Onitsha City Marathon in its first edition promises to be the talk of the town.
The International Amateur Athletes Federation (IAAF) and AIMS, have already certified the routes even before the race is being staged. The world bodies, during the measurement of the routes by Norrie Williamson, an IAAF.AIMS Grade A measurer, noted that the straight course terrains are unique and one of the best terrains for long distance race in the world.
This alone is a boost for the organisers who believe that the race has been to attract to itself the recognition which will make it stands out among numerous long distance races taking place in Nigeria.
The Chief Organiser, Prof. Olusegun Dapo Sogbesan said that the race which will start at Shoprite Mall will run through Dennis Memorial Secondary School, Oguta, New Cemetery Roads, MCC, Head Bridge, Expressway, Upper Iweka De. Nnamdi Azikwe Mausoleum, Nkpor Junction, Awka Road, and terminated at Chuba Ikpeazu Stadium by Ime Obi Palace.
“The maiden Onitsha City Marathon will be the talk of the town and an event to showcase the entire southeast region. We want to show to the world that Onitsha is not only known of its commercial activities, but the city and its environs are full of tourist potentials. We are trying to change the narratives of Onitsha city and place the city on the global map of sports excellence.
“We will put in place the welcoming nature of the Igbos for all our visitors because the government, the traditional rulers and more importantly the indigenes are in support and we are mobilising everybody for this event.
With Onitsha City Marathon coincide with Ofala Festival and the new yam festival, the runners will have the opportunity of participating in the event early in the morning of 5 October and be part of Ofala Festival later in the evening,” Sogbesan told a news conference at the National Stadium, Lagos on Sunday.
To the Project Manager, Osondi Emeobi, Onitsha City Marathon is a Nigeria project packaged to further expose the tourism and sporting potential of not only the southeast region, but the entire country.
“Interestingly, we are having a growing number of registrations across the world with less than a week. We are expecting 10,000 runners with 200 elite athletes. The prize money for the elite runners is between $10,000 to $1,000, while the local runners will win between N1 million to N20,000.
“We will mobilise all structures of security agencies in Anambra State as well as the local vigilantes for this marathon event. I am happy to say that the enthusiasm among the locals has been a source of encouragement for us to go ahead with our preparation’