Lagos City Marathon: Growing By Leaps And Bounds

By Ayo Afuwape

It is no longer news to see marathon races named after cities. Examples are the London, New York City, Tokyo Marathons amongst others. It is in the same vein that the Lagos City Marathon was established. The origin of the event dated back to 1983 when the first ever Lagos International Marathon took place. It was then organized by the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), and was preceded by several recurring half marathons held in Lagos.

Since then, the event has experienced diverse stages of metamorphosis. For instance, in 2016, it was renamed Access Bank Lagos City Marathon, and has since been organized according to the standard of IAAF, the world governing body for athletics.

The 2016 marathon had 50,000 registered participants, and was ranked second in Africa, after the Cape Town Marathon by the, and was ranked 71 among over 1,000 international marathons globally. Last year, 120,000 people registered to run the 42km path. Over the years, the marathon has grown, pulling in more sponsors and participants, and with them, more observers and enthusiasts.

The Lagos State Government has been offering full support financially, technically and in terms of security and logistics since inception. In fact, the current administration of Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu purchased the lion share of 30, 000 forms which were given to Lagosians for free while other sponsors completed the list.

This year’s event had over 150,000 registered participants that cut across 12 countries. The 42km race commenced from the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, while the 10km race started from the Ikoyi Link Bridge with both races finishing at the Eko Atlantic City.

The Lagos City Marathon has moved up the ladder from a Bronze Label marathon to a Silver Label marathon, less than five years after its maiden edition. This shows the level of efforts and investment channeled towards the marathon over the years. Speaking at this year’s event, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu expressed delight that the race has become a big platform to project Lagos State and, indeed, the country as a whole, with the participation of elite athletes from other parts of the world.

Speaking on plans to upgrade the event, Governor Sanwo-Olu said: “Last year, the marathon received the silver label. This year, we are gunning for Gold”. Highlighting his administration’s efforts in boosting sports, as part of tourism in line with the T.H.E.M.E.S Agenda of Making Lagos a 21st Century Economy, Sanwo-Olu stated that sports have become a money spinner across the world.

At the end of this year’s race, Kenya’s David Barmasai Tumo carted home the grand prize of $50,000 for winning the race and an additional $20,000 for breaking the marathon’s record. He finished the race after 2 hours, 10minutes and 23 seconds, thus breaking the earlier record set in 2018 by Abraham Kiprotich at 2 hours, 15minutes and 4 seconds. Barmasai, hence, went home with a total of $70,000, while Ethiopia’s Debeko Dakamo who came second earned the cash prize of $40,000 and Kenya’s Paul Waweru Chege, the second runner up, got the cash prize of $30,000.

In the female category, Kenya’s Cherop Sharon Jemutai came first with the time of 2hours, 31minutes and 40seconds, while Ethiopian Kebene Urisa came second and Kenyan Tunai Jekporir emerged third. In this category, winners of the first, second and third positions went home with the cash prizes of $50,000; $40,000 and $30,000 respectively.

Emmanuel Gyang Pam and his wife, Deborah Pam, emerged as the First Nigerians to complete the 42km race at the 2020 Lagos Marathon. Emmanuel Gyang finished 33rd overall with a time of 2hours, 25 minutes and 30secs while Deborah finished 14th overall in her category with a time of 2 hours 45 minutes and 30 seconds. Both went home with a cash prize of N3, 000,000 and N2, 000,000 respectively.

The impressive event peaked with musical performances from Teni, Reminisce and Davido among other side attractions. In all, this year’s Access Bank Lagos City Marathon was a huge success. The organization and planning was top notch. However, in the area of publicity, there is still much to be achieved, while cheering from road side spectators can become better as this is one of the prerequisites for upgrade to Gold and Platinum marathon.

Globally marathons have become notable sport tourism events. Nowadays, people participate in marathons for varied reasons, which include; running for charity, self-esteem, running for a cause and socialization. Similarly, some simply run for the money. Marathons are not only beneficial to the participants, but also to the host cities.

It is for this reason that more cities are launching races to promote tourism and boost their image. For example, the 2018 Access Bank Lagos City Marathon hosted 35 gold label athletes, 12 silver and 13 bronze label athletes, including 120 international and 150 Nigerian elite athletes. This is outside tourists who were also observers and supporters of the racers.

This year’s race route was excellently planned to show off some of the city’s finest landmarks, including Eko Atlantic City the finish point of the race which is a site to behold. Taking into consideration the huge size of visitors to the city, courtesy the marathon, it will be an understatement to state that marathons have huge potentials to provide a boost to tourism in the host city. Naturally, a large influx of tourists will result in considerable benefits for the host city’s economy.

By consistently hosting a marathon widely viewed across the world, Lagos has, no doubt, demonstrated to investors, tourists and foreign governments that the state is ready and open for business. While recognizing the huge efforts and investment required in hosting such a big event, the event stimulates future tourist visits, not just during the event but after. Event publicity also increases interest and the demand for local products and services from vendors, fashion designers, advertisers, travel agencies and experts, even when consumers are yet to visit the area.

Various marathons attract runners who spend on consumables and sports equipment. International participants also spend on flights and accommodation, while local runners (who make up to 90 per cent of the runners) also spend on consumables and other items. According to reports, the 119thBoston Marathon of 2015, and surrounding Marathon-related events was estimated to have enriched the city with an estimated $150 million (USD).

The Access Bank Lagos city marathon has over the years helped in empowering many people in the hospitality industry, including hotel, food and drink vendors, transporters, advertisers, communication agencies and experts, technical officers, travel agents and even volunteers that were engaged from the planning stage to the completion of the marathon.

Findings have shown that the impact of the marathon does not just end after the racers have crossed the finish line, as these people return to their home countries and share their experiences. This is likely the most plausible explanation why the marathon has enjoyed exponential growth.

As the marathon gets bigger yearly, pulling more participants, sponsors and vendors, we can only expect the city’s economy to continue to benefit immensely from the event.

Afuwape is of the Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.