Champions clash

One place you would not want to miss out of on saturday morning if you live in Africa's most populous city, Lagos would be at the national stadium in Surulere.

Nigeria is not known for long distance running, but the advent of the MTN Lagos Half-Marathon three years ago has been a breath of fresh air, attracting increasing numbers of local runners, from fewer than 15,000 in 2002 to over 30,000 entries in 2005.

Nigerian athletes, led by last year's revelation Wilson Eku (pictured in green top) are shaping up to challenge top foreign runners from Kenya and Ethiopia this time around.

The race organised by the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) and sponsored by Africa's telecoms giant MTN is already tagged the "biggest and best Lagos marathon ever".

A sure clash between three champions - Reigning world half marathon champion Fabiano Joseph of Tanzania, defending champion John Korir of Kenya, who set the course record of 63:05 in winning last year and Charles Kiama, winner of the 2005 Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon with 61.34 in altitude - who are in town today for the ultimate prize.

At yesterday's official 'Elite Runners' presentation at the MTN Marathon press centre in Lagos, the organisers confirmed that nine Kenyans are entered for this year's race and four other men from the top-ten in Edmonton six weeks ago.

Tanzanian 19-year-old prodigy Joseph is poised for the workout, but will surely have his work cut out this weekend. "The race will not be easy. I am prepared for this Marathon." he told The Vanguard.

"The other trio from the ‘World Half’ top ten," as IAAF's Pat Butcher puts it are: "Yonas Kifle of Eritrea (third in Edmonton), John Yuda, Joseph’s training partner from Arusha (6th) and Norman Dlomo of South Africa(10th)."

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