Irish priest held Nigerian marathon record for 46 years

Abraham Kiprotich of Kenya won the recent Lagos City Marathon with a time of 2:15:02, which is a new record.

Congrats. Now, here’s where it gets strange: The prior record holder was a Catholic priest from Ireland. Sean Healy won a marathon in the Nigerian city of Kaduna on Aug. 28, 1971. He was a missionary at the time.

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Sean Healy (Sligo Today)

According to the IAAF, Healy’s “all-comers” record time of 2:15:03 stood until Kiprotich broke it Feb. 10. The classification refers to a record in a country without regard to the runner’s nationality. Kiprotich’s record is with electronic “chip time,” as his “gun time” was 2:15:04.

Healy also won the Earth Day Marathon outside New York City on March 16, 1975, when he was a graduate student at Fordham University. As of 1999, Healy was still running marathons, according to this Irish Times feature, which highlighted his work on human rights initiatives in Ireland.

Healy is now director of Social Justice Ireland, a think tank based in Dublin.

As impressive as the record was, keep in mind that Nigeria went decades without holding a marathon. This was just the third Lagos City Marathon, though it has already earned the IAAF “bronze label.” Race organizers want Lagos to become an internationally acclaimed marathon.

Almenesh Herpha of Ethiopia won the women’s race in 2:38:23. Kiprotich is Kenyan but technically runs for France. He became a citizen after serving in the French Foreign Legion.

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