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.


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.




Super Eagles fans seethe as Tammy Abraham chooses England over Nigeria


Tammy Abraham in training. (Photo property of England Football Association)

Nigerians are venting their anger at Tammy Abraham for choosing England over Nigeria.

The 20-year-old Chelsea striker, on loan at Swansea City, made his senior debut Nov. 10 in a friendly against Germany. Abraham started and played 60 minutes in the scoreless draw.

Super Eagles fans got excited when Nigerian Football Federation president Amaju Pinnick, who is a longtime friend of Abraham’s Nigerian-born father, said in September that Abraham “has agreed to play for Nigeria.”

Abraham, who has four goals in 10 appearances for Swansea, immediately disputed Pinnick’s claim. Soon after, he was named to the squad for friendlies against Germany and Brazil (Nov. 14)

“I see myself as being a long-term England player. I’m 100 percent focused here,” Abraham said at his news conference after the promotion.

Nigerians have been venting their anger, saying England promoted Abraham only to block him from playing for Nigeria, and that Abraham is missing a chance at international glory. One angry fan tweeted: “Even my grandma knows you won’t play a single match for England at the World Cup.”

I agree that he should have chosen Nigeria because he would have a better chance of playing in the World Cup. But I also think it’s unfair to criticize a 20-year-old for making a tough decision.

Abraham was born and raised in England. Plus, don’t underestimate the disorganization factor. For one, there’s Pinnick’s seemingly premature claim that Abraham had switched allegiances. And the Super Eagles were stranded in Atlanta before the 2016 Rio Olympics after Nigerian officials botched flight plans. Schoolchildren don’t want to deal with these types of headaches, much less elite professionals.

Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi, 21, opted for Nigeria over England. His goal in a 1-0 win over Zambia on Oct. 7 sealed Nigeria’s qualification for the World Cup in Russia next summer. Iwobi was born in Lagos and his uncle his Nigerian football legend Jay-Jay Okocha.

To play for England in Russia, Abraham will have to compete with the likes of Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Daniel Sturridge, and Jaimie Vardy.