While training in Lagos, there are not many opportunities to run an organised race, so when the chance came around to run the second anniversary of the ‘Jogging with the Mayor’ Oshodi-Isolo race the other week, we bit the hand off!
The race is in the beating heart of the Lagos mainland, far away from the cosy expat areas of Victoria Island or Ikoyi. It was communicated to us, prior to the event, that it would be a half marathon. Cool, we all thought. But then literally, moments before the race began, we were informed that the winners usually run it in under an hour. Erm … Then someone had the idea of asking how many kilometres are in a half marathon, and the answer we got was “about 12”. OK then…
So not only were we not completely sure of the distance we would be running, but we had no clue of the route, whether there would be any water or even what would happen if someone suffered from an injury. Not that any of us really cared. There were 500 men, women and children, all in jubilant spirits – raring to go! Such became our enthusiasm and excitement, all the care in the world (as well as the race plans) went out the window!
As with all races it started it with the usual hubbub of everyone jostling for places and position, as we tipped out onto the road. A wonderful vibe filled the streets as people shouted out and cheered us on as we all ran past. To our surprise, the lanes on the roads were cleared to allow us all to pass by in safety.
I had had preconceived ideas that this race would be wild, no control, directions or regard. Just go out and belt it through the streets. I was amazed and humbled that it was very well organized and received in fantastic spirits. It is really encouraging to see such enthusiasm. Water, supplied by Eva, was positioned at regular intervals being handed out by incredibly enthusiastic volunteers. Marshalls were stationed at every point where the potential to run off into the middle of the Lagos mainland presented itself.
As far as I understand it, the purpose of this race is to promote health & exercise awareness as well as also providing an outlet for some of the children as an alternative to crime – which, obviously, is a fantastic cause. For the common Nigerian, life is not easy – and it is fair to say that the temptation to turn to petty crime can be great. So it is wonderful to see such desire and dedication by the Mayor and his team. His race is once a month, every month and costs nothing to enter.
To me the initial expectation was that it would be great to get in as many races as possible before Comrades, and this run presented one of those opportunities. But when you run 13km, sporting the latest quick dry clothing and top of the range running shoes, and beside you are are men, women and children running bare foot wearing their everyday clothes – suddenly the benefits of getting some speed work training becomes a very distant second.
As one friend of mine described to me after the race : He got a sense of perspective during the race when one of the runners kept crossing over onto his line. It eventually frustrated him to the point where he was just about to say something. Before he did however, he looked beside him and had noticed that the young boy, running alongside him doing his best to keep up, had no shoes on his feet and that he was simply trying to avoid treading on some nasty elements on the ground.
I could write pages about this race, detailing how fortunate we are, to have what we have, and how hard it is for the common man in Nigeria, but this blog is about running and the true fact is that man was designed to run, regardless of wealth or social standing. He was built to run long before Nike put air under our feet, and VO2_max charts were plotted. What I saw, and I am no talent scout, is that through all of the hardship and challenges here, it is very evident that there is huge running talent in Nigeria.
I have not run hundreds of races, so I do not have a lot to compare this race against. But I think when the old knees pack in and I can no longer run, I will look back at this race as one of the greatest I ever had the fortune to be part of.