This is the preview of the 2023 Lagos City Marathon, written by Deji Ogeyingbo. Deji will be covering the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon for RunBlogRun next weekend!
After attaining Gold label status, the Lagos marathon looks beyond the shores of Africa with its eighth edition
For a brief period in Nigeria’s athletics history, the only road racing event that held sway and attracted a good number of elite runners into the country was the 10km Okpekpe road race. It took place in the South-South region of the country with close proximity to the ancient city of Benin.
Although it wasn’t the first road race to ever take place in Nigeria, it quickly began to garner lots of attention with the investment the Edo State government put into it. Countries such as Kenya, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda, Morocco, Israel, Bahrain, and Morocco sent athletes to the 10km race and it rapidly grew from the inception date in 2013 to a Gold label race in 2022.
The Lagos marathon returned in 2016 with a bang and has not just cloaked the Okpekpe race with its allure and branding, the quality of the race is one that has seen it grow in leaps and bounds. Interestingly, the marathon was the second ever to take place on the continent in 1983, decades after the Comrades marathon in South Africa made its mark in 1921.
But having seen cities like Gaborone, Cape Town, and Nairobi launch their own at the start of the century, the Lagos State Government through one of Nigeria’s foremost Sport management companies, Nilayo relaunched the marathon in 2016. Since then, the marathon growth has been exponential, and will organize its eighth edition in 2023 as a Gold label race.
The Access Bank Lagos City Marathon was the first on the African continent to attain the Bronze Label status after just two years of its inception. It was also the first to have twenty thousand runners at its relaunch edition and the same prize money for male and female winners in a competitive race. And also, the first to advance to the Silver Label status in just after four years of competition as a Bronze Label.
Before it could attain this gold status, a host of requirements, ranging from the event’s attractiveness (history and heritage of the race, city, country, and continent); event marketing; athlete line-up (number of participants, elite field, prize money, equality, and safety) together with technical issues, including official times and results, route measurements, water stations, road closures, medical and doping requirements, among other aspects, need compliance.
Lagos, Africa’s most commercialized city surely played an important role in such an exponential rise of the marathon, but more importantly, there was a consciousness from the organizers to tag the marathon along the state government’s mantra of making it the most urbanized city in Africa.
To date, the 2020 edition has produced the fastest time from the elite runners that span across the continent with the Kenyans and Ethiopians holding sway with record times. David Barmasia and Sharon Cherop hold the course record with 2:10:23 and 2:31:40 although Ethiopia’s Dereta Geleta came close to breaking the record of the former at the last edition in 2022.
While the organizers have left no stone unturned with regard to the event, keeping the runners at the forefront has been a top priority for them, one that has ensured the race continues to attract some of the best runners in the world.
Also, the event has become so much more than just a road running race, and it has used its international status to drive change and make a difference for all Nigerians. In addition to its certified status, all Access Bank Lagos Marathon stakeholders are aiming to make it one of the biggest fundraising sporting events in the country, thereby further ensuring its future as a sustainable event.
The Gold label might seem the reasonable stop for the organizers, their thirst to take the Lagos marathon to match up with some of the elite races in the world especially those in the World marathons majors like London, Berlin, Tokyo, Chicago, New York, and Boston, will surely make the marathon a candidate for that label in the near future.
To attain that level, World athletics utilizes some stringent conditions like adding the elite wheelchair division for athletes, increasing participation growth to as much as 30,000 runners as well as expanding the entries to cover athletes from all continents.
In addition to the flagship 42.2km standard marathon, the organizers will have to be consistent with the hosting of variations of races such as 10km, 22km, and 12km Peace Trail Runs to add to the fun Run it has always inculcated from the outset.
The aim for them has always been to bridge the gap among the world’s top marathons, as part of their long-term strategy, while they continue to strive for excellence in their effort to retain top-flight Gold Label status.
Finally, asides from ensuring a better experience for participants this year, there will again be plenty of focus on spectator engagement at the end of the race with culminates at the Eko Atlantic waterfront city (which gives the race arguably the best view of an elite marathon finish), with an expected increase in supporter activations along the route.
The Access Bank Lagos marathon is without a doubt one of the biggest and most anticipated events for runners and the beautiful city of Lagos, and this new status elevates it to the pantheons of great races on the continent.