Ethiopia’s Yasin Haji will be seeking to make history as the first man to successfully defend an Okpekpe International 10km Road Race title after the 27-year-old arrived in Lagos for Saturday’s race in Okekpe, Edo State.
Haji became the third bonafide Ethiopian man to win the Okpekpe 10km race title after he ran 29:05, the third fastest winning time in race history, to win the title in 2022.
Teshome Mekonen who ran 28.35 in 2014 to set the race record was the first Ethiopian to win the men’s race and Leule Gebrselassie (29:28) became the second to win three years later.
Haji, who raced to a 27:00 lifetime best in the event last year in Lille has returned to form at the right time.
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The Ethiopian clocked 27:20 at the end of last month at the Adizero Road to Records, Adi-Dassler-Straße 1 in Herzogenaurach, Germany to send a message to his
countryman, Mekonen, that he is returning to Okpekpe to break the course record and make history.
The stage will not be for Haji alone as a certain Kenyan, Daniel Simiu Ebenyo will not only be seeking to return Kenya to the podium as Okpekpe race champion but also challenge Mekonen’s 28.35-course record.
Ebenyo is one of just 14 athletes in the event’s all-time list to have broken 27 minutes when he ran 26:58 in Valencia, Spain in January 2022, and like Haji, the 27-year-old has also returned to form just in time for the Okpekpe race.
He ran 59:52 to win the Istanbul Half Marathon in Istanbul, Turkey at the end of last month and will be looking to become the fifth Kenyan winner of the Okpekpe 10km title.
In the women’s race, a new course record also looks to be in the offing following the quality of the elite cast for the event.
Kenya’s Edith Jepchumba will lead the cast of athletes aiming to rewrite the 32:41 course record set by Ethiopia’s Wude Ayalew in 2014.
The Kenyan ran a 30:53 lifetime best over the distance last February, nearly two minutes inside the course record and she is the fastest athlete among the
elite cast confirmed for the race.
Ethiopia’s Bertukan Welde also ran inside Ayalew’s course record when she clocked 32:00 to come in behind Jepchumba in Castellon, Spain last February.
Abigael Jelimo will be seeking to get the gold this time after running 33.53 to place third at the eighth edition of the Okpekpe race last year.
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Meanwhile, Solomon Arase, former Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police and now Chairman of the Police Service Commission has commended Mike Itemuagbor, owner of the Okpekpe 10km race for sustaining the world-class road running event in Nigeria.
“Kudos to Mike (Itemuagbor), the great sports lover and administrator for putting the rural Okpekpe community on the map of the world. Okpekpe race has come
to say because of our brother who has been able to sustain it over the years,” said Arase.
The ninth edition of the Okpekpe International 10km Road Race will hold on Saturday in Okpekpe in Etsako East Local Government Area of Edo State.
The race is backed by the Edo State government, Nigerian Breweries Plc, Dan Oil, Petralon Energy Limited and Development Bank.
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okpekpe road race to me is a waste of time and resources, it goes to show how our elected people in government focus on the irrelevant at the expense of very important areas they ought to prioritize . Former governor Adams Oshiomole is one example of our politicians who focused on the irrelevant instead of the important areas of our sporting, educational etc in Edo State when he was the Governor. He did little or nothing for the development of our education in Edo state throughout his eight years in office but invested heavily to build a University in his home town, he abandoned sports development but sank money into creating okpekpe road race just because okpekpe race takes place annually in or around his village. Nigeria is not known for long distant race, it is not one of our strong areas in sporting competitions, so why waste money on okpekpe road race when we know that our best of best cannot compete with the weakest from Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia etc. Athletes from these Countries fly into Nigeria every year to pick up the top prices in dollars and jet out immediately. My call is for okpekpe race to be stopped and redirect the money we waste on it to school sports development. Bendel State was known for her excellent school/grassroot sport development, infact sport was a part of school curriculum in Bendel State and that was how the state dominated all other states in Nigeria sporting competitions for decades.. Let us go back there and stop wasting our scarce resources on okpekpe.