For consistently sponsoring the Lagos city marathon since 2016, Access Bank has created a platform that promotes healthy lifestyle, entertainment and sports, especially athletics. The race has also stimulated businesses, especially in the hospitality sector and put the event, and indeed, Nigeria, in the global sporting and tourism calendar.
Additionally, the marathon has helped different communities around the world to understand our culture, history, and the enterprising spirit that drives the city of Lagos.
This Marathon has provided a platform for thousands of young athletes who are eager to dominate the world using their incredible talents. From the Lagos marathon, many Nigerian and international participating athletes who have gone on to excel beyond the shores of the continent. With more than 120,000 participants and millions of observers spread across the world, the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon embodies the values of the bank and Lagos State – values built around resilience, continuity and pushing the boundaries of the perceived impossible.
It has, indeed, become a major item in the nation’s tourism and sport calendar, with enormous benefits to the local economy.
Thousands of skilled and unskilled workers are employed in the organization of the marathon every year. By 2028, it is estimated that Nigeria will earn N12 billion ($33 million) from its tourism sector, and ultimately, it is expected that this sector will have the capacity to create over 50 million jobs. In the current move to fully diversify the local economy, initiatives like this marathon are already proving essential in driving this change, with the sector contributing about five percent to the nation’s GDP annually. We should give kudos to Access Bank for bringing the marathon to the city of Lagos, just as we have similar marathons in almost all the major cities of the world.
Who has not heard of the London Marathon, Paris Marathon, New York Marathon, Boston Marathon, Cape Town marathon, etc? It is a wonder that Lagos, one of the biggest metropolitan cities in the world, did not have a marathon until 2016 when Access Bank partnered with the State government to bring this race.
I participated in the 2022 marathon last Saturday as one of the few invited and accredited journalists. It turned out to be bigger and more competitive than the previous editions.
Hundreds of runners competed, most of whom were Nigerians. But 90 foreigners took part, indicating a steady growth of the race over the years. But it was the East Africans who carried the day. An Ethiopian, Daresa Ulfata won the 42-kilometer men’s marathon with a time of 2:11:54. He took the first prize of $30,000. A Kenyan, David Bamasai returned the time of 2:13:33 to emerge second and won the $20,000 prize money. Another Kenyan, Emmanuel Nabei, took third position with 2:14:37. he took the $15,000 prize. In the female 42-km race, Dagne Siranesh won the first prize with 2:33:54 and the $30,000 cash prize. Alemensh Herpha Guta of Ethiopia (who was the winner in 2018) came second with 2:35:34 while a Kenyan, Naomi Maiyo came third with 2:35:44. The dominance of East Africans in long-distance races is legendary and has baffled scientists for ages.
Despite the challenges posed by the global pandemic, the Access Bank Lagos City marathon has evolved, demonstrating resilience and the organizer’s capacity to stage a competition that measures up to global standards. The marathon commenced in 2016, and in 2018, the race received its bronze label from the World Athletics, the Monaco-based international governing body for the sports of athletics, covering track and field, cross country running, road running, race walking, mountain running and ultra running. With continued improvements in planning and execution, the bank expects the Marathon to be awarded a Platinum label soon. A platinum label depends on the quality of the race track (the roads) and the overall standard of organization.
Organizing the Access Bank Lagos Marathon, the fastest-growing route race in the world recognized by World Athletics, is a huge logistical nightmare. Every detail counts and nothing is left to chance. Even the condition of the road is taken into consideration. The bank has engaged world-class consultants and professionals around the world to deliver a marathon of international standards every year. At the pre-event press briefing on the eve of the competition, I spotted Enefiok Udo-Obong, the sprinter and accomplished athlete who is the only Nigerian to win two Olympic medals (Gold at the 2000 Summer Olympics and Bronze in 2004 Summer Olympics) and Yusuf Alli, the retired Nigerian long jumper and three-time Olympian. He is best known for winning gold in the 1990 Commonwealth Games. The bank has also engaged a South African named Norrie Williamson, who is a World Athletics A Grade Measurer and Technical Delegate. His job is to calibrate and measure the 42-km distance and 10-km distance for the two categories of the race. Williamson’s calibration has determined that the routes for the Lagos Marathon are very flat which makes it one of the best running routes in the world. There is also Bukola Olopade, the chief executive of Nilayo Sports Management Limited and chief consultant to the bank, whose job is to deliver a beautiful race every year. Also partnering with the bank are well known sports administrators from Lagos, Edo and Delta States.
At the finish-line of the race at Eko Atlantic, the new city emerging on land reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean, were several international news media organizations waiting to capture the moments the athletes arrived, one of the few moments the headlines will not be about killings and bloodshed. I commend the bank for this investment, and commend the many other brands and corporate sponsors for their support to the marathon. I believe that the marathon will get bigger and bigger and become more interesting, attracting the biggest and best talents in the world. I look forward to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) awarding the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon the gold and platinum label rating very soon.
As I stood at the finish-line last Saturday, expecting to see the tired runners come in one after another, I recall the words of Fred Lebow (co-founder of the New York City Marathon), “It doesn’t matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say, ‘I have finished.’ There is a lot of satisfaction in that.” Well done, Access Bank!