Ethiopian Haji set to defend Okpekpe title

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 Ethiopian man to win the Okpekpe race 10km title after he ran 29:05, the third fastest winning time in race history, to claim 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) the second to win it three years later.

Haji, who raced to a 27:00 lifetime best 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 countryman, Mekonen, that he was returning to Okpekpe to break the course record and make history.

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The stage will not be for Haji alone as 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 athletes aiming to rewrite the 32:41 course record set by Ethiopia’s Wude Ayalew in 2014.

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