The 6th edition of the Okpekpe Road Race which begins today will play host to a couple of world-class athletes who have made long distance race their fortress.
Over 3,000 athletes from Kenya, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda, Morocco, Israel, Bahrain, Morocco, and Nigeria will compete for the race which starts in Apana Road and ends in Okpekpe, Edo State.
These international athletes will compete with local athletes who see the race as a launch pad to reach the top heights of international races.
According to a statement released by the race’s director of organisation, Zack Amodu, this IAAF silver label 10km road race began the accreditation of runners on Thursday and ended on Friday (yesterday).
It was gathered that 2016 winners Simon Cheprot of Kenya and Polline Nwajiku who won the men and women’s race respectively in 2016 are in town.
As at the time of filing this report, Diana Kipyogei of Kenya who won the Adana Half Marathon in Turkey in January and the Guadalajara Half Marathon in February is expected. Also expected is Ethiopia’s Jima Bekele Reta.
It will be noted that Reta holds the unofficial second fastest time over the distance in history.’
Also set to jet in is Sandrafelis Chebet Tuei of Kenya, the fastest woman over the women’s 10km so far this year.
‘We are expecting a very explosive race and a new course record for both the men and women race as we have a very quality elite field,’ said Amodu.
During the countdown to the race during the week, the head of Okpekpe Road Race secretariat, Mercy Etukudo said Tuei, a Kenyan, will jet in with her compatriot, Mary Munanu, who is the fourth fastest woman over the distance this year courtesy the 31:34 she ran last January to come third in the Valencia 10km road race.
Meanwhile, it was gathered that Ethiopia’s Amedework Walelegn, the third best-ranked man in the 10km race so far this year, as well as 2016 men and women winners, Simon Cheprot of Kenya and Buzunesh Gudeta Getachew of Ethiopia respectively, have hit town and are set to compete for the top prize.
Also, Josphat Kiprono Menjo, the man who holds the fourth fastest time in the history of the 10km (27:04) and his Kenyan compatriot, Ronoh Timothy Kiplagat, who has broken 28 minutes (27:52) over the distance this year are in the country for the race as well.
It was gathered that the athletes arrived through the Murtala Mohammed Airport Lagos and were immediately transported to Auchi led by the elite athletes’ manager, former Nigeria 400m hurdles champion and reigning record holder at 48.50 seconds, Henry Amike.
Meanwhile, while all eyes are focused on the Okpekpe race as the 46th IAAF label road race to be held this year following the staging of the IAAF Gold Label Volkswagen Prague Marathon in Praha, Czech Republic last Sunday, the runners will be focused on the money.
In the new outlay, a total of $112,000 is on offer as prize money to the top eight finishers in the men and women’s elite race with the winner in each gender category going home with $20,000 while $13,000 and $9,000 respectively will go to the second and third-placed finishers.
The total prize purse of N1.1m paid out last year has been increased to N4.8m this year with the first placed finishers in both the men and women race going home with N1,000,000 while the second to the fifth-place finishers will get N600,000, N400,000, N250,000 and N150,000 respectively.
According to the organisers, to qualify for the $20,000 top prize for the elite runners, the athletes must run 28:35.00 minutes or better for the men and 32:41.00 minutes for the women. For the Nigerian category, the winners must run 29:04.00 minutes or better for men and 34:05.01 minutes for the women’s race.
Saturday’s Okpekpe race is the only IAAF silver label 10km road race for the first half of 2018 and will be live on Satellite (Supersports) and Terrestrial (Africa Independent Television, AIT) television.
It is organised by Pamodzi Sports Marketing, leaders in sports marketing and hospitality business in Nigeria.
It is the first and only road race in Nigeria that has been granted full membership of Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) and recognised as one of the prestigious road races in the world and the only race with an IAAF silver label status in West Africa.