The 2018 Lagos City Marathon:  Seeking greater local participation

Recently armed with a Bronze Label certification by the IAAF, the Lagos City Marathon will return in 2018 with the aim of reaching more people than it did in the past as it dangles car prizes for the winners of the 10km Family Run.

Growing in leaps and bounds annually since it started in 2016, almost a 100,000 people are expected to participate following the official figure of 73,000 starters in 2017.

Access Bank, title sponsors of the race, alongside 7UP Bottling Company and Chinese carmaker GAC Motors, have continued to back the marathon which has ambitions of becoming the biggest road race in the world.

Hebert Wigwe, Access Bank MD, said they are keen to see the Lagos City Marathon become a Gold Label race in the next five years as they seek to ensure it continues to play a major role as a tourism driver for Lagos State.

According to Wigwe, their interest is to use the Lagos Marathon “to change the narrative about Africa.”

“Lagos is ready for business, it is a city that can host world-class events just like we are doing with the Marathon,” he said.

Deji Tinubu, chairman of the Lagos State Sports Commission who represented the Lagos State Governor Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, highlighted why the government continues to support the marathon as an opportunity to improve the value of the city under the acronym T.H.E.S.E – tourism, hospitality, entertainment and sports for excellence.

“We will continue to back things that promote the excellence of Lagos,” Tinubu said as he pledged the support of Governor Ambode to next year’s race.

The Lagos City Marathon is a brainchild of Bukola Olopade whose sports marketing company Nilayo Sports also has its eyes on building a franchise in Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital territory. Nilayo Sports is also in charge of the 2018 African Athletics Championships that will take place in Asaba, Delta State.

L-R: Bukola Olopade, Sound Sultan, Segun Ogunleye, Diana Chan, Herbert Wigwe, Deji Tinubu, Ibrahim Gusau, Victor Etuokwu & Yusuf Ali

Chinese carmaker GAC Motors will hand two new cars to winners of the 10km family run as the race looks to ramp up excitement among non-elite runners and ensure higher local participation.

Diana Chan, MD of GAC Motors, said the company sees a lot of opportunities for growth in the Lagos City Marathon having seen the potential of mass races in her native China. Her company’s support for the race also signifies that Lagos is a safe place to invest in for foreign companies.

Having given out 350,000 carbonated drinks and water bottles in 2017, Segun Ogunleye, Senior Brand Manager of 7UP, said that they are backing the Lagos City Marathon once again to make a difference.

Some new innovations for the 2018 race include spy cameras on the route, according to Yusuf Ali, the general manager of the Lagos City Marathon. With the Bronze Label gotten by the race, Ali said that it would increase the participation of elite runners and tourists that will mean higher hotel occupancy in the metropolis during the race weekend.

In my conversation with Chairman of the LOC, Access Bank Executive Director Victor Etuokwu (see video below) – I asked about the impact of the marathon on the local running community. Have they observed a growth in running clubs since the marathon kicked off?

“I can assure you that what we’ve seen in Lagos is awesome, the community interest around this [race] is wonderful,” Etuokwu said.

“73,000 people ran last [race] and we expect over a 100,000 participants [in 2018]. The interest is there and the awareness is there and we believe it can only get better. So we are very happy with the interest that we have generated so far.”

While marathon organisers do not have figures yet about the number of new running clubs and individuals that have picked up the sport since the race started, there is optimism that it will eventually happen as they bid to promote healthier lifestyles.

The Lagos City Marathon will take place on February 10, 2018. It will shut down major roads and streets in Lagos but it is a spectacle worth watching.

 

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