By Sedara Philip
All roads will lead to the City Gate of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) where the first-ever Abuja International Marathon will take off, with over 10,000 participants expected to file out for the historic race which is the first of its kind in Abuja.
In a press conference held on Friday, April 28th, to herald the race, it was revealed that 32 foreign athletes from Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Bahrain were already on the ground to fight for spoils, while over 100 Nigerian elite athletes are also set to give a good account of themselves in the race which begins at 6 am.
With a mouth-watering offer of $50,000 for the top finishers in the men’s and women’s categories respectively, the race is expected to be keenly contested.
Some of the dignitaries at the press conference held at the Exhibition Pavilion of the Department of Arts and Culture, Social Development Secretariat in Abuja included Mr Lucas Istifanus, Director of Sports, FCT; Mrs Grace Awe, Director, Department of Arts and Culture, FCT; Mrs Asabe Umar, Director of Youth, FCT, and Mrs Joyce Bozimo, Organiser of the Warri/Peace Marathon.
Others are World Wrapperman; Mr John Shittu, the Marketing Officer of the Abuja International Marathon, and Mr Olukayode Thomas, the Race Director.
Guests at the press conference were entertained by the Arts and Culture troupe.
In his address, Istifanus expressed his excitement over the race. He said: “It is our pleasure that the FCT is hosting the Abuja International Marathon for the first time and we want to seize this opportunity to welcome you because everyone here is a major stakeholder. You are going to have an exciting time as far as the FCT is concerned as we have a lot to showcase.”
The organiser of the Warri Peace Marathon, Bozimo highlighted the importance of running marathons. She said; “The marathon is an enduring race, just like the race of life. We took the marathon to Warri because we wanted youths to run together and bond, beyond political affiliations and religion. Running helps our health and helps us build long-lasting friendships. People have come from different parts of Africa and we are promoting our culture, commerce and tourism.
World Wrapperman urged the residents of Abuja to come out en masse and be a part of history. He said, “If you can’t run, you can share and take pictures that can last a lifetime. And if you want to see me in action tomorrow – the only man in the world that runs with a wrapper to promote our cultural heritage – come out and take part in the race.
Shittu is confident of a spectacular outing on Saturday: “I believe things will work out pretty well tomorrow and it will be a race the FCT will be proud of”, he said.
The Abuja International Marathon will feature three different races, starting with the full marathon (42km), the School Marathon for students (5km) and the family race (10km).