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NAWIS President hails Abuja International Marathon’s bright start

Saturday, 29 April was a historic date in sports in Nigeria and Abuja in particular as over 10,000 runners throng the streets of Abuja to take part in the 3-in-1 races at the Abuja International Marathon.

A Professor from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) and President of the Association of Nigerian Women in Sports (NAWIS), Adeyanju Florence, has commended the organisers of the first Abuja International Marathon (AIM).

Mrs Adeyanju in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES said it was heartwarming to finally see capable hands like Unicentral Resources organise a first-of-its-kind international race in the Federal Capital Territory.

Saturday, 29 April was a historic date in sports in Nigeria and Abuja in particular as over 10,000 runners throng the streets of Abuja to take part in the 3-in-1 races at the Abuja International Marathon.

While some went the whole distance for the 42km race which started from the Abuja City Gate and terminated at the Eagles’ Square, the majority settled for the 10km and 5km races that were dominated by fun runners and students alike.

Prof Adeyanju with some of the elite women runners at the Abuja Intenational Marathon
Prof Adeyanju with some of the elite women runners at the Abuja Intenational Marathon

“I’m very impressed, it is well organised, and everyone is happy. I brought my grandchildren all the way from Zaria and they have never had it so good. They were dancing and enjoying themselves after the five kilometres race I was thinking they won’t be able to make it but they made it and still danced and they are already asking for more,” Mrs Adeyanju stated

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“ I saw so many little children participating. It was not restricted to anyone. People went according to their capacity and they had a good time. I really want to commend the efforts of the organisers and I hope they will continue because it has brought smiles to so many faces both young and old,” she added.

Nigeria still behind

Predictably, the top prizes in the elite cadre in the men’s and women’s races were swept by the East Africans and Mrs Adeyanju admitted that Nigeria still has a lot to do to transform her runners into potential world beaters.

Kenya’s Emmanuel Naibet and Bahrain runner Ruth Jebet (originally Kenyan) won the men’s and women’s categories of the Abuja International Marathon.

She said: “There’s much work to be done. If you compare Nigeria with Kenya, East Africa, and South Africa, we are still far behind. We have the wherewithal, the environment for people to even practice and excel like those countries that are ahead that we have mentioned.

“Since you people have brought up the idea of taking marathons to different parts of this nation I think the awareness will be more. People don’t really know much about marathons. They are aware of football, basketball and some other sports but they don’t really know the benefits of marathons. Apart from the gift that you give people, there are health benefits”.

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To get Nigeria on the pedestal she truly deserves to be, the founder of the Association of Nigerian Women in Sports said the relevant authorities will need to stop paying lip service to sports development.

She said: Our sports ministry, the government; Federal, State and Local should be sincere about sports development. What happened to Mambila Plateau, what happened to other avenues whereby people can easily practice and excel?

Prof Adeyanju with Ruth Jebet the winner of women category at the Abuja Intenational Marathon
Prof Adeyanju with Ruth Jebet the winner of women category at the Abuja Intenational Marathon

“I think there was a time when they were talking about Obudu Mountain Race. We have the environment, we have the talent but we are not sincere about sports development in this country and that is what is affecting marathons.

“Until we really settle down and practicalize all those policies we have been putting together, we may not achieve what we want to achieve and so I urge all of us from the grassroots as a family, community, local government, state and federal government, we should work together. Bring out the talent, and let them achieve, aspire and be what they can be.

“We have all the talents and if we consciously practice and sponsor and practicalize what we put on paper, Nigeria will always be at the top,” she affirmed.

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