The 7th edition of the 10km Okpepe Road Race was held last weekend in Edo State amidst pomp and pageantry.
While there were many moments to savour from the IAAF Gold Label chasing race, the feat by a Nigerian couple who emerged tops in the male and female categories got much talking.
The couple, Emmanuel Gyan and Deborah Pam, were all smiles as they mounted the podium to collect their winning medals barely two weeks after they walked down the aisle to exchange marital vows.
Though they had long been training partners, the duo cemented their relationship just before coming over to compete in Okpekpe last weekend.
“Because of the wedding and the other stress, that was why I was thinking that I would not be able to make it.” Gyan who emerged as the first Nigeria male finisher told PREMIUM TIMES
“This is a perfect wedding gift because winning our first championship as a married couple is the beginning of more blessings to come.
“I feel happy winning the 2019 Okpekpe race again, I also won it last year so it was not easy defending the title again.
“When I saw the crowd and the Nigerian stars all around, I thought I would not make it. But I told myself I must not be out of the medals list even if I fail to come first.
“After the wedding stress, I made sure our honeymoon was just for us to train, so I told my wife, baby don’t’ sleep we have to train, we need to look for food for our children before they come. We begin to work hard, one week two days and here we are we make it again, it wasn’t an easy task.” Gyan said during the exclusive interview.
While the 2019 triumph is the fourth victory for Gyan, it is the seventh for his wife, Pam, who has been dominating since the inception of the Okpekpe race.
Gyan said he has mastered taking on the dual role of a coach and husband for Pam.
He said: “When we were just dating and it is time for training, I will tell her, let’s leave the love for now and pay the sacrifice we have to so we can be champions when we are done. I help her to recover, make food for her and myself.
“She usually cooperates with me, sometimes we train twice in the morning, at 4.00 a.m. we are on the treadmill before we hit the road. She used to endure and here we are ripping the benefits. The love and respect she has for me is great and I also motivated to train more because of her.”
For Pam, winning in Okpekpe was really not anticipated having only returned from injury and also just get married
She said: “There was not enough time to prepare very well for the race but I am happy, I still won the first position.”
Asked what the winning secret was for her and heartthrob, Pam was unequivocal that hard work and dedication is key to their success.
“The secret is just hard work, discipline and focus on what you are doing.
“Like now, we did not do any honeymoon, we used it to be training,” she said.
For those thinking they now have a chance to overtake Pam because she is now married, the champion has a contrary message.
“From now on, I will be training even harder than before because I have married my husband who used to train me before. He knows how to handle me very well and I know I will even get better.
Already looking ahead to when they would start having babies, Gyan insists that having babies will only temporarily slow down his wife; but that won’t make her quit running.
“When the baby comes, she would have a break, when she puts to bed, I will treat her because I have the knowledge in Physical and Health Education having completed some courses, I will help her back to continue what she loves doing,” Gyan said.
Having conquered in Okpekpe, the Nigerian marathon couple have a loaded calendar ahead of them and would next be moving to the Nigeria Armed Forces Games.
The duo also revealed that they would be competing at the Lagos Media Marathon set to take place later in the year.