From running after corrupt politicians to marathons Sowore is born to run:
Everyone should run before going to do what they normally do, whether going to the farm, work, or you don't have anywhere to go, just exercise-Sowore
Presidential aspirant Omoyele Sowore’s passion for marathons and road races may not be on the same level as his passion for fighting against injustice and corruption but it’s certainly close to it. In an exclusive interview with 234sportsng.com, the human rights activist gave an insight into how he fell in love with running. Olukayode Thomas reports
Human rights activist, pro-democracy campaigner, a presidential candidate under African Action Congress, and founder of Sahara Reporters is born to run.
Sowore started running from an early age. Growing up in Kiribo, Ondo State, Sowore use to run to the lake with a motorbike very early in the morning to fish and get other food for his parents and siblings, a polygamous home with sixteen children before running to school.
As an undergraduate of the University of Lagos, Akoka, where he studied Geography and was President of the Student Union Government between 1992 and 1994 Sowore did not stop running.
He was not just running to classes to pass examinations, he was also running and fighting against cultism, corruption, bad governance, injustice, and other vices.
The establishment fought back; leading to his academic program being extended by two extra years. He was also expelled twice for political reasons and student activism.
But Sowore was not only running against evil on campus, he was also running and fighting against evil in the larger society.
In 1989, he was actively involved in running and fighting against evil genius Ibrahim Babangida’s bad government. He took part in student demonstrations protesting the conditions of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan of $120 million to be used for a Nigerian oil pipeline. Included among the conditions of the IMF loan, was a reduction in the number of universities in Nigeria from 28 to 5.
Sowore led 5,100 students in protest against the Nigerian government in 1992. The protest resulted in police opening fire and killing seven protesters. He was arrested and tortured.
He also ran and fought the actualization of the June 12, 1993, presidential election. Adjudged to be the freest and fairest election in the history of Nigeria and won by MKO Abiola, the election was annulled by the Babangida-led military junta.
His participation in the fight to actualize Abiola’s mandate resulted in several arrests, detentions, and life-threatening treatment by government officials.
His ordeals under the present government are legion. They include several arrests, detentions, physical assaults, restriction of movement to FCT for several months, charge for alleged treason after calling for a protest tagged RevolutionNow, and "conspiracy to commit treason and insulting President Muhammadu Buhari".
But detention, assaults, and running from one court to the other as not deter Sowore from running and fighting against corruption and injustice. Just Gani Fawehinmi, Sowore will rather die running against anti-people policies and actions rather than join the elites that have turned one of the most prosperous countries in the world into the poverty capital of the world.
How Sowore became a marathon fanatic
Sowore’s love for marathons and road races is a close second to his love for running and fighting against injustice. He gave an insight into how he fell in love with running,
“One day, I went to pick up my wife's cousin, his name is Dayo, from the airport in New York and he had just come from the Berlin Marathon.
“That was in 2013 to be precise. As soon as he walked into my car, he fell asleep and when he woke up, we were at home. And when I asked what happened to him, he said he was just returning from the Berlin Marathon. I asked him, "What's wrong with you? Why will you go to a marathon in Berlin, Germany, all the way from Lagos?" He said, "I will tell you tomorrow."
“When we got home, he went and slept for the whole night. The next morning he woke up wasted. He said, "Can we go for a run?" I said, "You were almost dead yesterday; why will we go for a run?" He said, "Let's go, I want to tell you something".
“So we went for a run and after a few minutes, I gassed out. And so when I asked him why we went on a run, he said he needed to do it, and that I could do it too. I felt so upset because I was aching all over my body.
“The following morning he woke me up and said let's keep going, and that was how I started running marathons even after he left the US for Lagos. By 2018 I had done eight marathons; two in Miami, two in Philadelphia; I did Lagos twice and New York; I don't remember the last one I did.
“I know it's unbelievable because it's a different experience. As some people love to say to me, it was an extremist experience from someone who used to spend most of my time on computers to running marathons, and that's a life-changing experience for me.
“So I kept running since then. I'm talking of marathons I ran in Poncho, Half Marathons, and I joined the New York Runners Club. We do 5k races, and 10k races.
Running with DSS
Being detained by DSS did not dampen nor affect Sowore’s love for marathons and road races,
“When I was running for office in 2018 it came out handy, and when I was detained in the DSS and given a treadmill, within a short time the treadmill maxed out.
“They repaired it and it broke down again. They stopped and so I realized that running is life; it is cardiovascular life and I never stopped running since 2013, and this is 2022.
“ Now I have started a club known as Lazy Man's Running Club to encourage people who feel they are lazy to just take to running because running is amazing; not just running but any kind of exercise makes you feel fit. There is nothing like running and the only reason I agreed to this interview is that I just want to encourage everybody to just get out there, run, exercise, and just feel fit.
The health benefits that come with running
As running and fighting against injustice gives Sowore innate joy, running marathons and road races also come with immense benefits for the human rights activist,
“I come from a family that has a history of heart issues. My dad and his brothers all had heart diseases and they died quite earlier than I thought they would. I'm only 50 years old and not in any way bragging that I will live for long but I have seen at the age of 50 a lot of difference in terms of how I feel health-wise. It doesn't matter whether your family has genetic heart issues; running just makes you feel good. It is tough I must admit, but I just think it is something everyone should do. Everyone should run before going to do what they normally do, whether going to the farm, work, or you don't have anywhere to go, just exercise. It doesn't stop you from being who you want to be. I'm an activist to a lot of people, and I feel good that I run first before I go fight.”
PULL QUOTE: As some people love to say to me, it was an extremist experience from someone who used to spend most of my time on computers to running marathons, and that's a life-changing experience for me.
PULL QUOTE: Everyone should run before going to do what they normally do, whether going to farm, work, or you don't have anywhere to go, just exercise.
KEEP A DATE WITH US ON WEDNESDAY FOR THE SECOND PART OF OUR INTERVIEW WITH SOWORE