After receiving his $10,000 prize money for finishing top at the maiden edition of 21 km Kaduna marathon, John Muirurri Mburu of Kenya looked at the crowd and smiled: “The government and people of Kaduna have done well. I will surely return next year to defend my title.”
Mburu, who has competed in several races across the globe for over 10 years, finished tops in Kaduna in a time of 1:04:02 to beat the duo of Phillip Taurus (1:05:78) and Josephat Kiptanui (1:05:78) to the first prize.
While his Nigerian counterparts were busy lamenting their mixed fortunes at the end of the race, Mburu took his time to reflect on some of the races he competed in the past and said: “This Kaduna marathon is one of the best I ever attended in the world. I am saying this because Kaduna has the best weather that suits marathon races. It makes the race easier for me.
“Turning to dozens of camera-waving sports journalists, who were throwing questions from all directions, the Kenyan said: “I know that I trained hard for the race, but the siren environment, coupled with good organisation made it easier for me. I am not surprised I won the 21km race.”
He continues: “This Kaduna marathon is my second competition in Nigeria. To be sincere, I really enjoyed every moment of my stay in this city. I am willing to return to Kaduna in 2021 to defend my title.”
Prior to the flag off of the race on Saturday, November 21, some people were worried, particularly about news of insecurity coming from some parts of the state. But throughout the duration of the event, which traversed roads in both southern and northern Kaduna, there was no incidence of violence. The State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, had declared that he decided to host the marathon, the first in northern Nigeria, to encourage peaceful co-existence and friendliness in his state, as well as boost its economy, empower and engage the youths, encourage healthy lifestyle and bring in tourists from different parts of the world.
To former Nigerian long jumper and three-time Olympian, Yusuf Alli, Governor El-Rufai’s strategy worked.
Alli, a gold medallist for Nigeria at Auckland 1990 Commonwealth Games, and General Manager of Kaduna Marathon, told The Guardian that the state made history as the first in sub-Sahara Africa to stage what he described as three-in-one race.
“This is the first time a state is hosting a three-in-one race, and we must give kudos to Governor El-Rufai. It is always difficult to stage the 5km, 10km and 21km half marathon at the same time. At first, I was skeptical whether the state would be able to cope with the three-in-one event, considering the logistics involved. But the governor told us that his team was ready. Today, we are celebrating the success of Kaduna marathon. The enthusiasm on faces of the youths speaks a lot for a state like Kaduna.
“The three-in-one mode is possible for the people to emerge winners in some of the events. For instance, two Kaduna runners, Mohammed Sabi Musa and Mohammed Dani Zubaim, won the top prizes in the five-kilometre race, while Gyang David and Kangyang Solomon, both from Plateau State, won the 10-kilometre category,” Alli said.
It would have been difficult for the indigenes to win such prizes in the 21-kilometre half marathon because of the stiff opposition from foreign athletes.
Commissioner for Sports, Professor Kabir Mato, could not contain his excitement as he praised both the athletes and organisers of the race. On his part, Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Communication, Muyiwa Adekeye, disclosed that the first edition of the Kaduna Marathon succeeded in advancing the goals of promoting sports, encouraging social interaction and showing the best of Kaduna.
“The Kaduna State government wishes to express its gratitude to everyone that has helped to make a success of the first edition of the Kaduna Marathon. The elite runners from several African countries brought high standards of long-distance running, while Nigerian citizens, residents and visitors alike to Kaduna, participated with enthusiasm.
“KDSG commends all the runners, the sponsors, the media and government agencies that collaborated to make the Kaduna Marathon a success at the first attempt. We congratulate the winners and acknowledge other participants for making it a joyful sporting and social event. The state government salutes Kaduna residents for the warm welcome they gave to our guests. Government acknowledges residents for bearing the inconveniences caused by the road closures for some hours on race day.
“The main 21km race, the 5km and 10km races have helped advance the goals set for the Kaduna Marathon, which is designed as an annual sporting event to create options for talent development, drawing mass participation, inviting visitors to the state and creating economic benefits,” he said.
According to Adekeye, the Kaduna Marathon represents a further initiative in reviving sports in Kaduna State. In 2019, he said, “Malam Nasir El-Rufai anchored this responsibility in a new Ministry of Sports Development. The government will continue to support sports and work to stage many more sports programmes in the near future.”
Apart from Mburu, who pocketed the top prize of $10,000 as winner of the 21km half marathon, the second and third position winners in the male category got $7,000 and $5,000. It was the same prize money for winners in the women’s category, where Caren Maiyo ran the fastest time of 1:12:43 to place first, while Cheptoeck Mwetick placed second in 1:15:26 and Lilian Chemweno settled for the third position in 1:15:32.
In the Nigerian category, Emmanuel Gyang, who was the first Nigerian to cross the finish line in the 21km was presented with a cheque for N3 million.
Over 23 foreign athletes participated in the maiden Kaduna Marathon.
Meanwhile, the Managing Director of Nilayo Sports Management Limited and consultant to the Kaduna Marathon, Bukola Olopade, has described that event as a huge success.
“I am really excited by the success story of the Kaduna marathon, considering that it was the maiden edition. I am sure that Kaduna marathon will become a label race soon.”
Also thrilled by the success of the event is former national record holder in marathon, Abbas Mohammed, who led some local athletes to challenge their foreign counterparts at Kaduna marathon.
Mohammed, whose national record of 2:16:06 seconds set in September 1990 at a full marathon race in Lagos, has remained unbroken for over three decades, said the Kaduna marathon came at the right time.