By: Lawal Damilare
The UI community was left with unusual cheers, as the school experienced her first ever Marathon race. Just like other Saturdays, the morning was cool and the school was quiet until the athletes set out for the race.
It began with convergence at the University’s first gate where the event was declared open by the Dean of Students and representative of the Vice-Chancellor, Prof I.A. Abiona. As part of his opening speech, he stated, “I welcome you all to the Prof Adebowale Marathon Race. There has been a good rapport between the management and the students and this is appreciated. It is said that a good mind should be in a good body and that is why we are doing this. It’s not all about winning, an Olympics is majorly about participation. Every UIte is a winner, ladies and gentlemen and, at that, I declare this marathon open.”
The SU officials were all present at the starting point to encourage participating athletes. The Students’ Union President, The Union PRO, the VP, the Treasurer, and the AGS were all present at the event.
The first aid and Red Cross personnel were readily on the ground, and a team of protocols was set already at all 13 checkpoints. The volunteers were all present to distribute tag numbers to the athletes, a team of transport officers, and of course, the campus security officers to maintain order.
The gunshot for the female race sounded at exactly 8:30 am, for a half marathon race of 8.5km. The male gunshot went off 15 mins later and the male athletes started their race. Also, a professional pacesetter was set ahead of the athletes to keep them motivated. The marathon was an expected 17km.
The routes were well planned as it ensured that the athletes passed through each hall, and went around the university community, the race which took off from the gate, went across major places in the school like, Awba Dam, the UI VC’s Lodge, The Chapel of Resurrection, the UI Central Mosque, and it all ended at back at the Sub Carpark.
During the race, there were a few cases of participants that needed urgent medical attention because of exhaustion. There were about three cases of people passing out during the race and a handful of injuries.
The first aid was quoted responsive as it handled the first major case that happened during the race. There, an athlete fainted, but thanks to the help of the ambulance and first aid, he was catered for.
However, a similar case happened just before the finish point, around the love garden junction. But the ambulance was nowhere to be found, they explained that they had just rushed an athlete down and couldn’t come back as quickly as possible. Thankfully, protocol team members were able to assist the athlete in due time. Basic injuries were treated and exhausted participants were offered glucose and water for strength.
As the race progressed the wheat began to separate from the chaff as more experienced athletes outpaced the inexperienced ones, and were soon at the finish line.
Fredrick Oluwaseyi Fisher stole the day as he came in first, with a whopping time of 29:05 minutes. In his interview with us, Fredrick said, “I am a quarter-miler. I run 400m for the school, I am the fastest 400m athlete, so I don’t do long distance. But when I heard there was an opportunity to run with the best of athletes in UI, I chose to open my season with it. The race was good, the pacers, it was well organized, I have to applaud the organizers well.”
In second place was Prayer Ayo Bamidele, who came seconds behind Fisher. It had been a close battle between them that morning. Prayer ended the race with a time of 33.5 secs.
In his interview with Indy Press, Prayer said, “I am very happy, I have tried marathon (sic) just once, but still I am happier. The organizers can, however, make the directions more descriptive. If I didn’t read the map well, I would have made several mistakes, overall it was a good competition.”
The female category was tough to decide, as several of the athletes claimed they were redirected, and had to pass longer routes to get to the destination. The organizers however considered the verdicts of the protocols at different checkpoints. One of the conditions was if all 13 protocols saw the athletes pass through each checkpoint and if the volunteers at the finish line saw them arrive first. With this rule, Nwankwo Blessing was announced the winner of the female marathon.
Blessing shared her elation with our correspondent, “I am so grateful, I didn’t know I could win this, but I just gave it a trial. Fortunately, I won the race. The organizers did well, but they can do better. I was directed through the wrong routes, and I had to run past a point twice. Going forward, they can work on directions.”
The congratulations were loud, but there were also lots of controversies. The issue of directions, validation from protocols at checkpoints, left many athletes and observers confused.
Logistical Issues and Costly Glitches.
There were some areas that the hosts did not do justice to and those issues stirred controversies. Many of the athletes and observers complained about directions and the inefficiency of the protocols at the checkpoints.
Many people complained that the route was not well planned and led to certain miscalculations affecting the performance of the athletes. One of the aggrieved athletes, David King, a participant in the race said, “The SU VC marathon was not properly planned regarding guides and checkpoints.
We were sent a map with the route. But in the middle of the race, some cut through an entirely different route to reach the next checkpoints. Those who ran the normal route now lost to those who ran some routes made up mid-race. And there were no checkpoints there to disqualify them. We had issues navigating in the right direction at some turning because there was nobody there to direct us. We even had to ask a resident if he saw anyone run past.”
The issue of direction also caused some confusion during the award session. Contestant 060 Ayomide Prayer, who arrived second at the venue with Fisher, was surprisingly declared first position and Fisher was almost denied a medal until they asked questions and later decided to award both of them gold medals.
There was a similar issue with the female race. Some of them ran the same routes for the men, but it wasn’t supposed to be so.
“When we got to the finish line, we informed them about it but they didn’t do anything,” one of the ladies complained.
“There was a lady from the Faculty of Law who finished first among the females but she was snubbed for the first position because another lady claimed she went a longer route wrongly which increased her distance covered. Still, the men who cut routes were still given the position they ended with. Aside from the distance and mapping issues, the medals weren’t designed either.”
12 Gold medals were awarded to the first 12 male athletes, while six were awarded to the first six female athletes.
The organizers, however, promised to look into the results again and reiterated that the instructions that went out were that whoever did not get validated by the 13 protocols at the various checkpoints would be disqualified. This judgment seems sound, but when we apply it to the Fisher and Prayer scenario, we shouldn’t have had any argument, if they both arrived at the finish line, seconds after each other.
If Prayer was named first by the organizers by the criteria, Fisher then should have met such criteria, which made them consider them both first position, and promised to resolve everything.
The chairman of the marathon, Habeeb, popularly known as Braun jr said, “The team who vetted the results presented this to us by their analysis, but we promise to look into all this before the cash prize is given.” He thanked the students for their patience and promised them that it would get better in the coming year and all their complaints are noted.