Running couple, Emmanuel Gyang and his wife, Deborah Pam, were the first Nigerians to complete the grueling 42km race at the 2020 Access Bank Lagos City Marathon on Saturday.
The ‘romantic’ flair was another highpoint from Saturday’s race where new course records were set by Kenyan duo, David Bamarsia and Sharon Cherop, who emerged as the overall winners in the male and female categories.
Barmasai set a new course record as he finished the 42km race with a time of 2:10:23 while his compatriot, Cherop, breast the tape at the Eko Atlantic on Lagos Island in a time of 2:31:39, finishing not just as the new champion but also as the new course record holder.
Kenyan runners, Debeko Dakomo and Paul Chege, made it a clean sweep for the East African giants in the men’s race.
It was almost the same in the female race but Kenya picked the first and third position as Ethiopian Kebene Urisa sneaked in to claim the second spot.
For Gyang, who was the first male Nigerian, he finished 33rd overall with a time of 2:25.30secs, while his wife Pam who was the first female Nigerian to get to finish in her category, finished 14th in the women’s category with a time of 2:45.17secs.
Indeed, the popular saying that a couple that runs together stays together was well-represented by this famous Nigerian ‘long-distance’ couple, Gyang and Pam – now a three-time winner of the Nigerian category of the women’s event of the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon.
Gyang and Pam who competed in the 5000m, 10,000m and Marathon, found each other as far back as secondary school, having been drawn together by their love for running whilst representing their school, Government Secondary School Gwang in Jos South of Plateau State.
As such, the pair, who currently run for the NSCDC and have been training partners for more than a decade, but only got married last year.
In 2016, the duo won the men’s and women’s 5000m titles respectively at the National Championships. In 2019, they emerged the first male and female Nigerian finishers respectively at the Okpekpe 10km race in the build-up to Lagos Marathon, which is now the biggest one-day event in Africa.
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Though meeting the qualifying standard for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was not met on Saturday, Gyan and Pam would be proud of their efforts that has fetched them N3m each.
In the build-up to Saturday’s race, Gyang was very positive that he would break the jinx that has previously stopped him from finishing on the podium at the Access Bank Marathon.
He said, “We train together, both morning and evening, and we are working towards being the first Nigerian male and female respectively, to cross the line. We are trying to see if we can meet up with the Olympic standard, that is what we are working towards, because if I can get close to the standard, I believe I can be the first Nigerian to cross the line.”
Gyang has found fulfilment in having a spouse who not only understands his profession, but is also involved in the same line of work, pointing out the need to develop endurance not just on the track, but in other matters of life as well.
“Athletics gave me a partner, and it has kept us close. We share our problems with each other and advise each other. However, all of this didn’t happen in a day. We have worked towards this for years; we didn’t just start now. We’ve known each other very well since 2006 and I feel happy that we are doing the same event.
“You don’t just wake up and think you can marry anyone just because you belong to the same field. You need to study each other; you need to see her level of discipline; is she someone that can cooperate with you? You can achieve more together when you’re both disciplined. Although it’s not a day’s job, God answered our prayers and we are together now,” Gyang added.
For Pam, having a partner who specialises in the same events she competes in, has its benefits: “The advantage is that he is more experienced because he started before me, so he lectures me on what to do and it works for me. It would have been a totally different experience if I had married someone who isn’t involved in Athletics.
“There hasn’t been much difference in my training pattern since getting married. It’s just that I now train thrice a day, unlike when I was still with my parents and used to train twice a day,” said Pam.