• Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Dayo Akinbode traverses 83 countries and 120 races to bring her marathon experiences home to Ile-Ife, Nigeria

Dayo Akinbode traverses 83 countries and 120 races to bring her marathon experiences home to Ile-Ife, Nigeria

Two years after her doctor cautioned about her weight, Dayo Akinbode started exercising, discovered the marathon, has spent 15 years running marathons in 83 countries, and brought it home as the Ile-Ife Heritage Marathon Annual.

Her dream was to run at least one marathon. “The company I worked for introduced in 2012 the Global Corporate Challenge, which encouraged participants to take 10,000 steps daily. I started walking to meet this target but transitioned to jogging and running to complete the steps more efficiently. As I became more involved in running, I learned about the rarity of marathon completion, with only 1% of the population achieving this feat. This statistic intrigued me and motivated me to join that exclusive group. I wanted to run just one marathon.”

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She lost 12 kg in the Shell in-house competition. It was a spur.

Beginning with a half marathon, Dayo Akinbode affirms, “I have run the full marathon of 42.195km in 83 countries. I aim to complete the total marathon distance and lift my Nigerian flag in every country.”

Lifting the Nigerian flag in every race and country is now integral to Dayo’s marathon journey. As for funding, “I retired from the corporate world at 50 to pursue my passion, and my races and trips are all self-funded.”

Kenyans and other East Africans run marathons professionally. Do you find them in the races you run?

Akinbode, “Of course, I see them in the races that offer significant prize money. Often, we stay in the same hotel. We race for different reasons. They race to win and make money. I run to fly my Nigerian flag and create awareness about my beloved country. Most people from some other countries have never heard about Nigeria, but I make it my duty to parade myself and interact as much as possible. ‘When you see me, you see Nigeria’, I always say. Don’t believe everything about Nigeria you hear in the news.”

Now, at the home front. “The Ile-Ife Heritage Marathon holds a special place in my heart. Founded in 2018, I created this marathon for runners, with the vision of allowing Nigerians to participate in a world-class marathon right here at home. The event also serves as a platform for international runners I have met throughout my marathon journey to experience the beauty and culture of Nigeria. “

The Ile-Ife Heritage Marathon has attracted diverse participants worldwide, including runners from Burundi, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, the UK, and the USA. “Each edition has brought together a vibrant community of runners, fostering camaraderie and mutual respect among participants from different backgrounds. This is an event and celebration of heritage, fitness, and international friendship.”

How is it coming, and what do you need in support?

“Despite some challenges, the Ile-Ife Heritage Marathon has made impressive strides since its inception. The event has been self-sponsored, and while we have faced difficulties in publicising and marketing due to limited funds, we have still managed to create a memorable experience for participants.

“Unfortunately, the 2023 edition did not take place because we could not afford to organise the event. I even considered laying the marathon to rest permanently. However, the outcry and support from the running community inspired me to bring it back in 2024. I could not deny the runners what had become an annual celebration.

“At our last event, Aquafina provided drinks. We hope they will continue this support, although a formal agreement still needs to be in place. Additionally, MTN contributed monetary support, and Lucozade supplied drinks and personnel, which we hope to maintain for upcoming editions.

“We need increased support to continue growing and improving the marathon. Financial sponsorship would help us enhance marketing efforts, reach a broader audience, and provide better amenities for the runners.”

Akinbode trained in engineering at the Obafemi Awolowo University and made her mark in supply chain management. She is a “dedicated and passionate runner” who brings the same fire to all her activities.

“A strong desire to change the narrative about my country, showcasing its beauty, culture, and potential through the Ile-Ife Heritage Marathon” drives her. She introduced the Ile-Ife Run Club in April 2024 to encourage Obafemi Awolowo University students “to lead active lifestyles and embrace the benefits of regular exercise” in preparation for the annual marathon.

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Dayo Akinbode adds, “Beyond organising marathons and running clubs, I am known for my unwavering determination, perseverance, and ability to inspire others. My story is of transformation, community building, and a relentless pursuit of a healthier, more active lifestyle for myself and those around me. Through the Ile-Ife Heritage Marathon and the Ile-Ife Run Club, I aim to create a positive and lasting impact within Nigeria and on the global stage.”

Dayo has honed her photography skills to complement her first-rate narratives about people and places in her marathon journeys. She loves geography and exploration. “Also, my deep appreciation for nature, particularly forests, bodies of water, and diverse terrains, drives me to capture their beauty through my dayoakinbode photography lens.

“I am inspired by how different countries have harnessed their unique geographical features and cultural heritage to showcase to the world. Witnessing how nations highlight their natural wonders and cultural treasures to attract visitors fills me with admiration and a sense of possibility. I am particularly drawn to the idea of my own country, Nigeria, with its abundant and diverse geographical formations, harnessing these resources to showcase our rich heritage to the world. Nigeria has stunning landscapes, from lush forests to sprawling savannas, and vibrant cultures that deserve global recognition. I am passionate about the potential for Nigeria to harness what we have and proudly share it with the world, promoting tourism, cultural exchange, and economic growth in the process. This aspiration drives me to continue running marathons, capturing the beauty of nature through photography, and organising events that celebrate our country’s unique identity and potential.”

Her passionate promotion of Nigeria through marathons is the stuff of national awards. Good luck.