--As former Inspector General of Police, Arase hails race organiser
Ethiopia’s Yasin Haji will be seeking to make history as the first man to successfully defend an Okpekpe international 10km road race title after the 27-year-old arrived Lagos for Saturday's race in Okekpe, Edo state.
Jaji became the third, bonafide Ethiopian man to win the Okpekpe race 10km title after he ran 29:05, the third fastest winning time in race history, to win the title in 2022.
Teshome Mekonen who ran 28.35 in 2014 to set the race record was the first Ethiopian to win the men's race and Leule Gebrselassie (29:28) became the second
to win three years later.
Haji, who raced to a 27:00 lifetime best in the event last year in Lille has returned to form at the right time.
The Ethiopian clocked 27:20 at the end of last month at the adizero Road to Records, Adi-Dassler-Straße 1 in Herzogenaurach, Germany to send a message to his
country man, Mekonen that he is returning to Okpekpe to break the course record and make history.
The stage will not be for Haji alone as a certain Kenyan, Daniel Simiu Ebenyo will not only be seeking to return Kenya to the podium as Okpekpe race champion but also challenge Mekonen's 28.35-course record.
Ebenyo is one of just 14 athletes in the event's all-time list to have broken 27 minutes when he ran 26:58 in Valencia, Spain in January 2022, and like Haji, the 27-year-old has also returned to form just in time for the Okpekpe race.
He ran 59:52 to win the Istanbul Half Marathon in Istanbul, Turkey at the end of last month and will be looking to become the fifth Kenyan winner of the Okpekpe 10km title.
In the women's race, a new course record also looks to be in the offing following the quality of the elite cast for the event.
Kenya's Edith Jepchumba will lead the cast of athletes aiming to rewrite the 32:41 course record set by Ethiopia's Wude Ayalew in 2014.
The Kenyan ran a 30:53 lifetime best over the distance last February, nearly two minutes inside the course record and she is the fastest athlete among the elite cast confirmed for the race.
Ethiopia's Bertukan Welde has also ran inside Ayalew's course record when she clocked 32:00 to come in behind Jepchumba in Castellon, Spain last February.
Abigael Jelimo will be seeking to get the gold this time after running 33.53 to place third at the eighth edition of the Okpekpe race last year.
Meanwhile, Solomon Arase, former Nigeria's Inspector General of Police and now Chairman of the Police Service Commission has commended Mike Itemuagbor, owner
of the Okpekpe 10km race for sustaining the world class road running event in Nigeria.
'Kudos to Mike (Itemuagbor), the great sports lover and administrator for putting the rural Okpekpe community on the map of the world. Okpekpe race has come
to say because of our brother who has been able to sustain it over the years,' said Arase.
The ninth edition of the Okpekpe international 10km road race will hold on Saturday in Okpekpe in Etsako East Local Government Area of Edo state.
The race is backed by Edo state government, Nigerian Brweries Plc, Dan Oil, Petralon Energy Limited and Development Bank.