THE Chief Promoter of Onitsha City Half-Marathon, Olusegun Shogbesan, has described the the 21-kilometre race in Onitsha as a huge success.
Shogbesan, a professor and Chairman of Onitsha Business School, Sunday, broke down in tears, as he thanked Alfred Achebe, the Obi of Onitsha, for his immense support and blessing in ensuring the success of the maiden race.
He described the challenges of pulling marathoners from Kenya and Ghana and other parts of the world like China and Germany to Onitsha, as Herculean.
He said: “To God be the glory. It is difficult not to be emotional. Faced with challenges and unnecessary hindrances, one got discouraged, disappointed and dismayed. We just tried to change the narrative. For us, history has been made and next edition will be better.
“Anambra State is endowed, Igboland is a great nation but until we identify our strength and exploit the opportunities available to us, we will continue to be complainants in the comity of nations.”
Shogbesan, who had spent about 30 years in Anambra, said he was determined to contribute his quota to the development of the state.
Thanking all those who contributed to organizing the historical race, and fighting back tears, he said,
“I have discovered that we can sustain excellence in this state and that is why we came up with the race, a social economic aggregator. There is no other sport that can easily attract international attention like a marathon.
“International athletes were all here, running in the streets of Onitsha. Hitherto, people thought we were joking.
“Thank God for the Obi of Onitsha who encouraged us with his royal blessing. History has been made, a record is set, standards created and come next year, the whole world will know that there is a race called Onitsha City Marathon.
“I belong here, I am dedicated to this, the encouragement was immense and touching, the media had faith in us and told us it was possible.”
The Chairman of Red Cross Society in Anambra, Peter Katchy, said the Red Cross recorded four cases of runners who broke down due to exhaustion.
He said, “we recorded four casualties, cases of tiredness and lack of ability to continue the race, but no deaths. Two who slumped were revived and finished the race, while the other two were taken to the hospital for further treatment.
“It was highly successful, we followed it through. This is the first time it is holding here and with what we saw it can only get better.
A veteran broadcaster, Emeka Odikpo, who is also a member of the organising committee, rated the success of the marathon highly.
He explained that the marathon created a record where 157 runners from the 1,000 that participated finished the race.
He said it was challenging hosting such an event in a densely populated commercial city like Onitsha, especially mapping out the routes and maintaining hitch-free traffic.
Although he admitted that there was no government involvement at the national level, where over 50 foreigners participated, he blamed Anambra Government’s absence on lack of belief in the success of the race.
“They will come next year,” Odikpo said.
Kenya’s Bernard Sang and Esther Chesand, were overall winners in the male and female categories respectively, while Emmanuel Pam and Fadekmi Olude were the first Nigerians to breast the tape also in the male and female categories respectively.
William Amposah from Ghana, who finished fifth overall, was the first West African to breast the tape, while Augustine Nwafor was the first athlete from Onitsha to finish the race.