First Gentleman with Wilson Orhiunu
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Julie Andrews (Maria) sang in the popular musical, Sound of Music: “Let us start from the very beginning, a very good place to start”. So we travel to 490 BC to see how it started.
There was war between the Greeks and the invading Persian armies. The Greeks won the battle of Marathon and Miltiades (Greek Army leader) sent word of the victory to the king via a runner Pheidippides. (Young readers might wonder why he didn’t send a text message. There were no phones then).
Poor (or patriotic) Pheidippides ran the distance at full speed to the palace and promptly died after delivering his very important message.
If he were Nigerian, Okada (boda-boda to the East Africans) would have been an optional means of transportation. During the course of the journey, he might have stopped for “fuel” at a roadside restaurant called mama put for pounded yam and pure water. Between swallows, he would have muttered, “I cannot come and die for government work” (A man should not die working for the government).
If it had been in my village that Pheidippides had died, the elders would have called a meeting to decide that all indigenes be forbidden to run that kind of distance. Europe, however, is not Africa. 42.2 Km is the distance we will be running; so help us God.
I have run the London Marathon thrice and the New York Marathon once, so I felt like doing one at home.
Cities tend to have their marathon routes go past historical landmarks that stir the soul. For me the most iconic structures in Lagos are the Tafawa Balewa and Tinubu squares and the National Theatre.
These buildings were not on the route. The other iconic site that holds a lot of memories for me is the National Stadium Surulere. This was where the Lagos City Marathon starts. This was where we went to in the seventies to celebrate the Children’s Day. All we did was look at the girls who attended.
The floodlights looked so massive to me when the stadium was first built in time for the Second All African Games. There is nothing like visiting a brand new stadium. You just never forget the experience. It was those childhood memories that made me love the starting point. Across the road from the National Stadium is the Teslim Balogun Stadium which is built on the site of the previous UAC Sports Complex. This was where we played our football matches in the then Principal’s Cup fixtures. My secondary School St Finbarr’s College had an excellent football team which included stars like the late Stephen Keshi who incidentally has a larger than life mural painted of him under the fly-over bridge in front of the National Stadium.
I had arrived to Lagos via Dubai on 6-02-18 and it was a relaxed affair on a quality aircraft but the legs had become swollen after being in the air for 15 hours.
7-02-18 I went on a run to stretch the legs. Did about 10 km and was happy with how I coped in the heat. Next it was off to Teslim Balogun to collect my Race Number 17839 and my running kit. I must add that registration was free and so was the running vest all thanks to Access Bank who kindly sponsored the event.
I did an interview for Kwese TV during which I was asked why I was running the marathon among other things.
Today was our tourist outing. I went out with my daughter to the National Stadium Iganmu, Tinubu Square Lagos where I found the statue of Kokoro –the blind drummer fascinating. Then we went to Tafawa Balewa Square built on the site of the old Race Course in 1972.
We then went out to chill at Sappers Waterfront Lounge in Bonny Camp, Victoria Island which was to be the venue of the post marathon race get together. My family all came and we hung out till late.
I went to record an interview with BBC Pidgin Nigeria at their Lagos Island office which went quite well. It was well received when the clip was published on social media a few hours later. I spent some time sending out links to my Go Fund Me page and also sending my Nigerian bank account number to those who requested it.
I am raising money for the Home of God’s Grace Orphanage in Ikorodu and all monies raised goes to them. I bear the cost of go Fund Me administration fees and fees for transferring money from UK to Nigeria. I did this so that if someone gives say £20 they see that £20 goes to the Orphanage. (But if person give me £1 Million, I no go pay any transfer fee sha).
By now the prayers for rain intensified for I knew I couldn’t do 26.2 Milles in the full Lagos sunshine
The lightning and thunder started about 2am. I couldn’t go back to sleep. My pre marathon routine started at 4.30am with a bath followed by using up a small tub of Vaseline on all body parts that rub against each other.
Next the nipples are protected with plasters and I am dressed and ready. Two phones, my iPod and my small canon camera for when the phone battery dies.
I am at the starting point by 6 o’ clock and it starts to rain. It didn’t last long and we were off at 6.30am.
That there was adequate water throughout the course. I must have used 15 bottles with a lot of it poured on my head. Being Lagos, things must happen. On the Third Mainland Bridge, I found a guy running next to me wearing Fila and Agbada. I took a few steps away. A few took their shoes off and hand barefooted. One guy changed to his roller skates and zoomed past everyone. Others hailed Okada. It was obvious many had not trained and there were a large number of buses ferrying people to the finish line. We ran along Alfred Rewane where John Iwelumo was waiting to cheer me on (very kind of him).
Lekki Bridge was cool for we knew the end was not too far away. The Babawilly Supporters Team headed by Enate Ogedegbe was there to offer support on Admiralty Way. It was nice seeing some of the street children we raise money to support. They all had their Team Babawilly T-shirts on.
By the time I crossed the 40 Km mark the road appeared to be growing longer. I ran and walked the longest 2 Km of my life.
They had run out of medals at the finish line so I “loaned” a medal from one of the young lads so I could take my pictures.
Arrived in a taxi at Sappers Waterfront Lounge to meet my daughter and mum. Had a shower and soon the other guested started arriving for our meal.
It was a marvellous time by the Lagoon chatting up with friends including Olumide Iyanda who I had never met in the flesh before
All the rain that the God Lord kept back for us during the marathon fell down. Ogheneovo Emore looked after us well with a lunch fit for a king
Went to Teslim Balogun Stadium and collected my medal.
All in all, it was a most marvellous experience