August 16, 2022

Ordinarily, the story seemed simple and straightforward but somehow, it proved a hard nut to crack for even veterans. The news, as reporters know, is in the ‘’lead’’ and a good beginning should be concise, broad in scope and inviting to the reader. However, the devil is in crafting a good opening and sometimes, pulling it off can be tricky. On September 19, 2020, Malam Nasir El Rufai, the Kaduna state governor, had addressed a press conference, heralding the Kaduna Marathon race in November. The event, according to him, will be a 21-kilometre race, featuring elite athletes, local stars and amateur runners. In all, about 10,000 athletes will participate and El Rufai will be one of them! Entirely, the event will be private-sector driven, according to him, with   corporate sponsors bankrolling the race.  Overall, the marathon will gulp N300 million, including security, prize money and sundry logistics.  Significantly, encapsulating the event’s novelty, being the first in Kaduna, the North West and Northern Nigeria; the sheer size of participants and the cost involved, as well as adding El Rufai in the lead, is a tough act to follow.

Similarly, a marathon is not a stroll in the park either; neither is it a quick dash, nor a regular weekend jog. Specifically, it tasks the stamina, endurance and perseverance and only the determined breast the tape. However, the Kaduna Marathon promises to be a mélange of fun, inclusiveness and running for laurels. The race, El Rufai has promised,   will be 13 miles less strenuous than a full marathon and registered runners can drop off at any point. Besides, running segments of 5km and 10km, he also revealed, will be created within the 21km race. So, everyone can run or even saunter at his or her pace and level of endurance. In fact, there will be something for everyone; from those seeking the glory of winning, to young persons wanting to hone their talents, to citizens who merely want to exercise, meet people, or simply cheer up the runners.

Likewise, the Commissioner for Sports Development, Prof. Kabiru Mato, amplified the governor’s press conference in a separate interview on October 5. The race, according to him, will benefit Kaduna state in several ways. In fact, there are   economic, social and political dimensions to the marathon race. Kaduna, in recent times, has been in the news for the wrong reasons as conflict entrepreneurs, in cahoots with the media, paint a society in perpetual crises. Kidnappings, rural banditry and cattle rustling as well as sundry crimes, are often given ethno-religious twists to feed a certain political narrative. Consequently,   to most outsiders, Kaduna people live in a Hobbesian state, where life is nasty, brutish and short. However, the marathon will give a more correct picture, the commissioner argued, as athletes from all over the world will converge at Kaduna on November 21. Thereafter, the race will be a leveller as people from diverse backgrounds will bond and forge life-long friendships, breaking the wall of distrust as a result.

Similarly, the race will boost commerce and businesses as hoteliers, petty traders and food vendors as well as all sorts of retailers will make money. Likewise, blue-chip companies will advertise goods and services, according to Mato, to attract high net worth customers and clientele.  Generally, the event will showcase the new Kaduna state, especially its   infrastructural development.

Elsewhere, experts list the benefits of the race on the body, human mind and soul. First, running   improves overall health, strengthens the heart and maintains a healthy blood pressure and cholesterol level. Exercise, according to research, lowers heart disease and stroke by 35 per cent. In addition, it lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to medical experts, by 50%, lowers the risk of colon cancer by 50 per cent and breast cancer by 29 per cent.   Indeed, exercise relieves common aches and pains. Likewise, running improves the immune system and increases muscle strength. Similarly, long races hones mental resilience, reduces stress as well as mood and anxiety disorders. Besides, it increases self esteem and confidence, according to psychologists.

Significantly, elite athletes from six countries, within and outside Africa, have registered for the coming Kaduna Mini Marathon race. Already, three Kenyan top rate athletes, Sheila Jerotich, John Muriuri Mburu and Rotich Mitei John, have confirmed their participation. Specifically, Jerotich is a world athletics gold-label marathoner and Mburu won first place in the half marathon men’s open category at Kaula Lumpur, the Malaysian capital in 2018. In all, 10 world-class runners from Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Ghana will run the 21 kilometres stretch in Kaduna. Indeed, Azerbaijan’s Desta Fitsun Weldu, the Ethiopian trio of Gebremedhin Silasssie Gebremedhin, Lensa Daba Kabtimer and Mawcha Adane Nega will be live in Kaduna. Similarly, William Amponsah and Ismael Arthur, both Ghanaians, will take part in the race, so will Uganda’s  Immaculate Chemmutai and Zimbabwe’s  Fortunate Chidvizo. In addition, Nancy Jesang, will compete for laurels at the maiden edition of Kaduna Marathon race, just like her Kenyan compatriots, Gladys Jepkemoi Chemweno, Careen Cheptoeck and Shila Jepkosgei Chesang.

Interestingly, these elite runners,  national and local athletes as well as ordinary folks will charge through  the main artery of Kaduna city, starting from Command Junction,  and will end  up at Murtala Square, the finishing line of the event. In the end, all participants will get race vests and finishers will receive medals and certificates. However, in the international category, the athletes that came  first will get $10,000, while  second and third positions will collect $7,000 and $5,000 respectively, for both men and women runners. Similarly, those who came fourth, fifth and sixth positions will get $3,500, $3,000 and $2,500 respectively.  Likewise, the seventh position will receive $2,000 while the athlete that came eighth will go home with $1,700.

The ninth and tenth positions will get $1,500 and $1,000 respectively. Indeed, both men and women winners will get equal prize money for the same title. Similarly, for home-based runners, the first position will cart away N3 million and the second will get N2 million while the third placed athlete will receive N1.5 million. The fourth, fifth and sixth runners will get N1 million, N750, 000 and N500, 000, respectively. Also, the seventh position will get N400,000 while the athlete that came eighth will get N350,000 and those   that came ninth and tenth will collect N300,000 and N250, 000, respectively.

In the end, there will be several stories, feature articles and analyses from the Kaduna Marathon and not just a single news item. Hopefully, crafting a good lead for the various news items may not be as challenging as cramping various elements into the intro of a single story – as it did for many,  with  the  governor’s  press conference.

Musa is Governor Nasir El Rufai’s special assistant on media and publicity


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