Okpekpe organizers celebrate first sub 31 minutes performance by a Nigerian at Gold Label race

Pamodzi Sports Marketing, organisers of the Gold Label Okpekpke international 10km road race say Francis James’ first sub-31 minutes performance at this year’s edition shows their investment in road running event is yielding the desired results.

James ran 30:46 last Saturday to win his first Okpekpe race men’s title after finishing ninth last year (32:24).

The 17 year old has now ran inside 31 minutes for the second time this year after running 30:47 to win the 10km race of the Lagos international marathon in February.

Zak Amodu, Okpekpe road race director believes Nigerian elite runners will soon break into the international elite level and eligible to compete worldwide.

‘One of the major reasons for starting the Okpekpe road race is to help develop road running culture in Nigeria and help our athletes to gain international recognition and eligibility.

‘This would be the first time a Nigerian man would run a sub-31 minutes in such a difficult terrain as the Okpekpe race and we may soon witness a Nigerian officially breaking the 30 minutes barrier,’ said Amodu.

James’ time is the fastest by a Nigerian over the 10km distance so far this year and the second fastest since Ismail Sadjo ran 30:23 in Lagos in 2022.

Two Nigerians have now raced inside 31 minutes this year (James Gang ran 30:51 in Lagos in February) and Stephen Nuhu, coach of many of the distance runners in Nigeria believes the athletes have finally come of age while praising organizers of the Okpekpe race for always priortising the welfare of Nigerian elite athletes.

‘I am delighted the improvement we have been waiting for is finally manifesting and I am confident we will soon have our athletes running under 30 minutes and qualify to run as international elite athletes,’ said Nuhu.

The Jos, Plateau state based coach says the country is blessed with so much talent and wants the Federal Government to come to their aid by establishing a high performnace centre at the Mambilla Plateau.

‘Look at Kenya today, athletics has not only become a sport for podium finishes at international competitions/championships and games but also a veritable source of employment which contributes greatly to their gross domestic product. This can be replicated in Nigeria and it can also be a great vehicle to fight banditry and terrorism,’ added Nuhu.

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