Organisers of the Okpekpe 10km Road Race are hopeful that this year’s line-up will be capable of breaking the Nigerian all-comers’ records for the distance for the third successive year at the IAAF Bronze Label Road Race on Saturday (16).
Now in its third year and having become the first road race in West Africa to earn an IAAF Label, the winners of the past two editions of the race have recorded the fastest times ever witnessed in Nigeria.
Last year’s winners Teshome Mekonnen and Wude Ayalew, who triumphed in 28:35 and 32:41 respectively, smashed the Nigerian all-comers’ records of 29:39 and 33:01 that had been set in Okpekpe one year prior.
“We are not just bringing in big names, but we are putting together an event that will also make big names,” said meeting director Yusuf Alli, the Nigerian record-holder in the long jump.
Kenya’s 2010 world junior 5000m bronze medallist Alice Aprot will be looking to overcome the disappointment of having to pull out of this year’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships. Her 10km PB of 31:46 from 2014 makes her the fastest in the women’s field.
She will be up against Ethiopia’s Bekelech Daba, whose PB of 31:58 was also set last year. Winner of several road races in the USA over the past few years, more recently she finished third at the Paris Half Marathon with a PB of 1:10:09.
Following the Ethiopian and Kenyan dominance in the first two years of the race, Morocco’s Aziz Lahbabi will be looking to break that trend in the men’s contest.
Last year he recorded the fastest ever half marathon by a Moroccan athlete when winning the Rome-Ostia race in 59:25, passing through the 10km checkpoint in a PB of 28:05.
Kenya’s Hillary Kemboi won the Obudu Mountain Race last year in Calabar and will be looking for another victory on Nigerian soil this weekend in Okpekpe.
Bahrain’s Birhanu Balew and Ethiopia’s Agunafr Bekele are also in the field and are capable of challenging for a podium finish.
First launched in 2013, the Okpekpe 10km Road Race will offer $25,000 to the men’s winner and $15,000 to the women’s winner.
Tunde Eludini for the IAAF