Renowned distance running coach, Stephen Nuhu says he expects the first ever sub-30 minutes run for men at the ninth Okpekpe international 10km road race next month in Okpekpe, Edo state.
Nuhu, who is in Pankshin, one of the coldest cities in Plateau state preparing the athletes for the World Athletics gold label race says performances in training have convinced him this will be the year Nigerians will see a sub-30 minutes run for the men.
‘We are in Pankshin preparing for next month’s Okpekpe international 10km road race and I can tell you we are ready to break the 30 minutes barrier for men and 34 minutes for women,’ said Nuhu.
Nuhu is not only encouraged by the performances in training but also how the athletes have fared in recent competitions they have participated in around Nigeria, especially the first National Cross Country race in February.
‘The cross country race has helped in the training of the athletes and some of the athletes who took part in the race in Jos have been registered for the Okpekpe race,’ he revealed.
Plateau state duo of Kefar Williams and Blessing Solomon made history as the first winners of the first National Cross Country race held at the Rhino Golf Course in Jos last February.
Kefar ran 31:38.30 to win the race ahead of 2022 National 3000m steeplechase champion, Stephen Joshua (31:51.69) and Emmanuel Gwang (32:01.77) who came second and third respectively.
Nuhu is confident that any or all of the trio who made it to the podium in Jos, running through that barriers can run inside 30 minutes in Okpekpe.
‘Running 31 minutes in a cross country race is not easy and when they run on an almost even surface, you can expect a faster time,’ said the coach.
Nuhu also pointed to the performances of the athletes at the eighth edition of the race in 2022.
‘Last year Ismail Sadjo ran 31:12 to come in first as the first Nigerian man. In fact two of them ran inside 31.20 at the race and this is a marked improvement from what we have been seeing in previous editions. This has given me confidence this year will witness the breaking of that 30-minutes barrier which can put them in the podium’.
Last year Ethiopia’s Yasin Haji ran 29:05 to win the men’s race while the women’s race was won by Anchinalu Dessie also of Ethiopia who ran 33.09.
Okpekpe road race is the first World Athletics label road race in West Africa and the first 10km road race in Nigerian to be awarded a gold label status.