Nigeria's Obiekwe heads to 116th Boston Marathon 2012

Nigeria’s Esther Obiekwe, "The Running Banker"

Nigeria’s Esther Obiekwe, also known as "the Running Banker", is the sole Nigerian representative at the 116th Boston Marathon on Monday April 16, 2012.

Obiekwe will rub shoulders with 34 Elite Athletes from around the world, majority of them Africans in Boston. Reigning champions from Kenya, Geoffrey Mutai and Caroline Kilel, will defend their titles, but will be challenged by the fastest men’s and women’s fields ever assembled for the Boston Marathon.

The Boston Marathon is the world's oldest marathon, and also one of only 3 marathons in the world which require a qualifying time (along with the Olympics and World Championships). With 31 contenders setting their personal best time in the past two years, including eight men under 2:07 and ten women under 2:24, the race will prove highly competitive.

The Boston Athletic Association, which is the race organizer, has reviewed its records, and verifies Miss Obiekwe as the sole Nigerian participant this year, as she has been since 2000.

"I am deeply honoured to represent Nigeria after the country's extended absence in the Boston Marathon, and am excited to run a personal record," Obiekwe said.

She clocked 3:36:40 at the 42km Dubai Marathon early last year to improve on her previous time of 3:49:55. And at the 38th Berlin Marathon in September 2011, she lowered her personal best (PB) further to 3:28:00. At the 2012 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon in January, she made some mistakes and finished at 3:49:40.

Obiekwe's coach, James Lafferty, a former CEO of Nigerian Bottling Company who now resides in The Philippines, said: "It is not reflective of the amazing breadth of talent in Nigeria that Esther is the sole participant from Nigeria this century.

"I believe it is more a matter of continuing to develop distance running in the country and to find more sponsors to defray the significant costs to send each athlete to Boston."

"Nigerians are strong and resilient and with proper support can compete with the East Africans that currently dominate the sport," he added.

Obiekwe's story indeed is impressive. The 36-year-old Banker, whose hobby is running, currently works at Fidelity Bank Plc, Lagos and uses her annual vacations to run marathons.

"I love running and I am lucky to run with other professionals in a local running club based in Ikoyi." Obiekwe stated.

"Most of us use our vacations to run marathons and I am thankful for my organization which also supports my active lifestyle. I was also discovered by the club Coach Jim Lafferty".

After adopting an early morning training regimen, she finished as the top Nigerian in the 2010 Athens Marathon, followed by continual improvements in Dubai and Berlin in 2011.

She is presently the top ranked Nigerian Female marathoner on the international circuit, on top of her demanding role as a corporate banker.

As Obiekwe says, "it’s a challenge to juggle a career and elite running career, but I thrive on challenges".

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