Most Nigerian women are very good at multi-masking and deftly handle the economic and home fronts, in the mold of the biblical virtuous woman. After the hassles of the week, engaging in more ‘punishment of the body’ in the name of exercising would be like asking for too much from the bone-weary, fagged out executive mummy. That is why they generally do not exercise.
But that would begin to change on November 9, 2019, the day the First Lady of Lagos State, Dr. (Mrs) Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, would flag-off the 2019 edition of Lagos Women Run at the Tafawa Balewa Square.
Lagos Women Run is the biggest female marathon race in Lagos and health advocacy initiative on physical fitness, which is a form of empowerment for women. Chief Marketing Officer of LWR, Mrs Ada Obaje said that the fitness programme targets women and encourages them to be self-confident and be healthy.
“Most diseases are preventable. By engaging in regular exercise, eating good meals and making the right lifestyle choices daily, you will significantly reduce the chances of having heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and others systemic conditions,” Obaje said.
The 10km Lagos Women Run and Fitness Programme is an initiative of the Gym Assured, Marathon and Road Race Company (MARRCOM) in partnership with Nigeria Association of Women in Sports (NAWIS), Lagos Chapter. NAWIS is a group of women with professional background in sports management and administration and other women organization. About 10,000 runners have already registered to participate in the event. In this interview, Obaje shades light on the marathon.
What is the idea behind the Lagos Women Run initiative?
Basically, the idea behind it is to enable women have a conscious perception of keeping fit. There is a myriad of issues mitigating the wellbeing of women in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. LWR initiative seeks to support and encourage the growth of fitness-oriented culture across the continent while also highlighting other issues affecting women such as sexual abuse, girl-child education, family and matters of equality. Women find commonality of purpose as they speak in one voice using fitness as a rallying point.
Give us an insight to why the convener, Tayo Popoola , created the yearly fitness programme?
Nothing is more empowering than having self-confidence. Being proud of the woman you see in the mirror every morning is a feat many try hard to attain but few experience. The coordinator of LWR, Tayo Popoola, has acknowledged that a method of obtaining this confidence comes from hard physical work. Poopola set up LWR to get women to the starting point of fitness. To bring women together using advocacy of fitness and as a tool to discuss women issues, advocacy and empowerment. She realised that few women participate in the Lagos City Marathon and when the idea came, she decided to improve on it and address the challenge. Women need a lot of information to keep fit. Exercise is good to female bodies and she decided to do something about it. Women can be strong and beautiful too.
What impact has the event had since inception?
Impact wise, the event has grown from a small gathering of about 500 women in 2016, when the first edition was held to a mammoth crowd with over 15000 participants in 2018. It has caught the attention of the Lagos State government, multinationals, including the woman on the street. It has attracted participation from both young and old women. In addition, awareness about physical fitness has grown. Also, business wise, the massive expo draws gathering from every sector and uniting women in building a formidable force.
What makes this year’s event stand out?
This year is bigger, better organized and has international participation as people from all walks of life are expected to be a part of the event. This year there will be an unprecedented health outreach as pharmaceutical giant, Emzor, will have a big health outreach, and offer free medical services for women.
This year’s edition will come with a number of world-class innovations after a careful study of what obtains at the world level. Over the years, our team members have beentraveling across the world to observe a number of women- specific marathon events in Europe, South Africa, American and Asia, and have garnered enough experience to deliver the best at the 2019 Lagos Women Run, come Saturday, November 9, 2019.
The 10km Run would prepare women runners for bigger marathons in the following year. Also, it is an emancipation of women and campaign against women brutality, which would be competed for in two categories: the open category for runners from ages 20 to 45 and the veteran category for runners from 45 years old to 70.
This was adopted in the last edition. The type of shirts of the participants will distinguish the two categories of runners. The Open runners will compete with a round neck shirt, while the veterans will wear V-neck shirts.
We understand that the wife of the Lagos State governor, Dr. (Mrs) Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, will flag-off the marathon. What does this signify?
The presence and participation of the First Lady of Lagos State, Mrs. Ibijoke Sanwo Olu, demonstrates the government’s support for physical fitness. The total well being of every woman is dear to her heart, especially given the fact that she is a medical doctor.
She supports the empowerment initiative embedded in LWR. It also indicates that there is massive support at all levels of government in the state. By implication also civil servants in the state have given massive support and promised to turn out in their numbers. About 20 women will be empowered. Prizes would be given to the first 20 women who cross the finish line. Older women who walk the 10km will also receive prizes.
In terms of response by participants, what does the picture look like? Are there likely to be sub-events before the main day?
In less than two months after we opened the registration portal, about 10,000 runners registered. This is a higher figure than what we got in the past four years. What this tells us is that more women in Nigeria are aware of the Lagos Women Run. It is a campaign for women emancipation and against women brutality. Though, this year the number of participants is higher, the LWR team will give its best.
The main event will be preceded by a one-week expo that would involve seminars for the participants on how to run a marathon, prevention of brutality against women, medical tests, eye test and validation of registration.
What is the route of the Lagos Women Run?
The route is the same as last year’s, which showcased 15 national monuments located in Lagos alone, from the flag off point at the Tafawa Balewa Square where Nigeria’s independence was declared to the legendary Tinubu Square, Electricity Coal Thermal Station, the National Art Theatre, Iganmu, and the National Stadium, Surulere, amongst others.
Why did your team target women?
Women generally do not want to exercise. To arouse their interest, LWR is using physical exercise as an advocacy on physical fitness. The fitness program targets women, wants them to be self-confident, but also to be healthy. Most diseases are preventable, and regular exercise and good meals help to reduce the chances of heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and others simply by changing their daily lifestyle choices.
Women can learn how to fuel their bodies appropriately with smart dietary changes. You may have noticed that the general population knows very little about proper nutrition. They are not promising temporary fixes or quick results, but to aid in the changing of daily habits of women to support a rock solid, healthy body. Exercise and diet go hand in hand and the event is determined to educate women on what these healthy habits are.
They can live and breathe this lifestyle. They can decide to start their own healthy lifestyle business so they can prove to women that fitness is no longer just a boys’ club. We want women to see their bodies differently, in a way that says, ‘I am a woman because I am strong and I am equally confident.”