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By Sunday Ajibola Edobor

People get into activities which they did not plan or bargain for by chance. It just happens. And unconsciously, the interest grows and grows therefrom and never leaves. Young people make as many friends as possible and they get involved in various activities, thereby. Its amusing that I have an abiding and enduring love for jogging. I would not pass up any opportunity to partake in it. And ironically, I have never been a sports person. I never partook in it or any of such physical activity as i was not good in any field event in my primary and secondary school days. I did well in Table Tennis but my interest was in football, in which I was bereft of talent or ability. I performed better, standing between the sticks as a goalkeeper during our "set" games at Muslim Primary School. All the youths of those days had interest in football. I was once drafted to be the goalkeeper when St. Patrick clashed with CAC Okeisegun pupils in primary three. But running was not my area.

  My first real outdoor athletics activity on the field was out of coercion, so to say. I had to take part in a race as part of the compulsory condition for gaining admission into Akure Secondary Commercial School. It was a 100 meters race on the School football field. I was placed 7th, out of ten participants, at the end of the exercise. I never ventured into it again until circumstances and youthful exuberance made me do it again a few years after.

 That year, four teenagers decided to compete against one another in a long distance running exercise. The race started at Eleye to Ayelabola through the State Hospital to Nepa to Arakale back to Eleye; it was needless. The young men comprised the dimunitive Taye Olotu alias Ineke, now based in the United States of America, Mufu, who is now an Islamic Cleric, Gbenga Alafe, alias Opone, who has become an Ifa Priest and my humble self. Taiye's house was a Mecca of sorts for  virtually all young people living in Alafe and Eleye Streets. I would not know what caused this but the place was our meeting point. I cannot deduce a tangible reason for our regular convergence, yet we always met there. At times, we would be ten or more. The four of us that took part in that race were closer than the rest. The other three were all relations-nephews, so to say. I was the only 'stranger' as I was not a blood relation of any of them. Young people love adventure, exploring and competition, healthy one at that among themselves. In the course of our discussion the day before, we had argued about who was the fastest runner amongst us. Taiye had a reputation as the fastest by virtue of his size and nimble footedness. Opone was the best footballer and enjoyed taking risks. He had no fear in him. Mufu too was a bundle of activity, always restless. I was perceived to be the one who would not last the distance being "a mum's boy" whose activity was staying indoors. We all agreed to meet early the following morning at 6am to prove our strength. We took off as agreed at Taye's house almost adjacent Oke Alafia Street. On our way back, as we approached Alafe junction, the jogging turned to a sprint as we all wanted to get home first. We all ran the race of our lives with Taiye leading, Opone second, Mufu third and I leading from the rear. None led the other by more than five seconds. We ended it where we started totally exhausted, panting and covered in sweat. After the race, I posed this question across to them, in Akure dialect. 

"irei tile ju. Ko sein kin jia duro kaa sare  booni pefo a fe gbeo si? Afere debebei tan ihin di keremole. "We have over stretched ourselves. Why were you running as if a price was at stake? You all increased the tempo when we were almost done. Why?" They retorted, uwo lifaa. Iwo kaa ti rofo ole ninu ria, ereo. Katia fo kuoya debebei siwaju ria. "You are responsible. You kept pushing contrary to our expectations. How would we explain it that you, whom we had adjudged a weakling got here ahead of us." Completion, healthy one at that, is good for development.

But sincerely, I enjoyed the race, the challenge and the spirit of competition that characterised it. 

   About six years after, I took a profound and unbiased look on my life and came to the conclusion that I needed to become involved in physical exercises more. Reason: I felt I needed it to be fit, at least physically. I settled for Jogging as the only solution. After all, I did it before and it did not kill me. By 5.30 am early in the morning, I would be at Muslim Primary School, Isinkin and jog for about an hour. A friend, Kayode Asekere, who had seen me doing it for a number of days took me up one day. 

The conversation went thus.

Kayode: who cook for you early in the morning?

Oblivious of his intention, I replied, "cook for me?"

He said yes. 

I: I don't get what you are talking about.

Kayode: l am asking you about the person who cook food for you to eat before coming here to run this early everyday.

I: Alright. I can understand now. Nobody cooks for me. I come here on empty stomach.

Kayode: You are very strong. I cannot run a meter without eating.

I smiled and he went away.

  Some months later, I needed more challenges, the need to up the ante was irresistible. The primary school field was no longer big enough for my jogging. So, I went into full blown street jogging. All alone I would take off from home at Eleye through Ayelabola, to State Hospital, Aquinas College, to Nepa and to "A Division" through Oba Adesida and Oyemekun roads, down to Ilesa Garage. I would come back through ByePass to Isinkan back home to Eleye in Oke aro. It was an enjoyable, exhilarating and a fulfilling experience. 

Three of my friends took up the challenge that there was nothing new in my jogging. Two of them vowed to outrun me. I enjoyed the challenge.

  The first was the late Rotimi Ilesanmi, popularly known as Eleba. He was my first best friend, whom I chose for myself at St. Patrick Primary School, Oke-aro. When I told him I was into jogging he smiled and said, "can you jog five meters? You better stop deceiving yourself. You are not that good."

I felt insulted by this opinion. I asked him again if he meant what he just said. He repeated it. 

His opinion was not without basis. He was a footballer for many  years from Primary to Secondary School. Rotimi had played for Omoluorogbo Grammar School at the highest level as a Central Defender. He was also very good in beating drum at the Assembly in our primary school days. I was not involved in any of these. I like being underrated as it would allow me to prove my mettle.

I challenged him on a jogging exercise from St. Patrick to Adofure, Idanre Road. And he gladly accepted it. 

We took off the second day.

On getting to Idanre Garage, my friend developed cold feet. He grumbled and tried to water down the enthusiasm i was getting from the trip.

Rotimi: Edobor, this is not the way we footballers exercise.

I: How do you do it?

Rotimi: we run some meters and walk, then stretch our bodies.

I: It does not matter. Let us go on. You said I cannot jog more than 5 meters. You will eat your words today.

Rotimi: we will have to go back anytime from now. Footballers do not run this much.

I: Rotimi, you have not seen anything. Let us head for Idanre. Mark my words, you will not get there before me. 

Shortly after, my friend turned back, saying, the exercise was too strenuous and meaningless.

   The second was Sunday Alafe of blessed memory. He had vowed to show me how good he was in running. By the time we descended the Oke aro junction off Arakale, on our way back, I increased my pace to sprint level. On arriving Alafe Street junction, I looked back, he was far behind me by about 10 meters. When I checked on him later, he was a jelly on his bed. 

None of them ever joined me again on jogging exercise.

The final person was Abayomi Ojo, alias Barrister, who also joined me once. He did not doubt my ability or promise to outrun me. He joined me out of curiosity. On the way, an overzealous Evangelist, who was preaching the word of God embarrassed us. Without stopping or mentioning us, she said, "e maa sare ijoba orun. Ema sare aye mo." Translation: run the race of heaven. Desist from running earthly race.

Abayomi asked me, instantly, "is this how people embarrass you while jogging? And I replied, let her be. We have different visions. For three days, Barrister did not enjoy the cooperation of his thighs.

   It got to a point that I decided to become a marathon runner. The vision ended in pipe dream. I realised that every time I jogged, I always ended up having blisters on my toes. The nails would eventually give way. This happened very many times. I thought this was caused by my tennis shoes. I borrowed an oversized canvas from my friend, Kunle Ajayi alias DJ (not the saxophonist of REDEEMED Church). The idea produced same result. Then, it dawned on me that I was not meant to be a marathor runner. However, I had the last of the jogging at the Akure Sports Stadium back then as I did twenty-two laps round the football pitch. By then, my finger nails were getting uprooted every three months.

  These days, I find jogging solace in dancing, running up and down and jumping during praise worship sessions in the church. When gangan mixes well with the drum set, the rhythm tantalyses, thereby making bodily response alluringy irresistible, prompting spontaneous dancing. As a music lover, good music touches my soul; takes me to an entirely different level of thinking. My concentration level rises. It might sound unrealistic but good mix of music with rhythm inspires.

  The other time I jog these days is  during the yearly Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Press Week Great Trek. I always ensure that not less than half the distance allocated for the exercise is spent on jogging. Two former members of the union, Nigerian turned Canadian, Niyi Bello and journalist-turned politician, Yinka Oladoyinbo used to tease me, "Ajibola, jogging is for young people. Stop it. You are no more a youth"

I would reply them, "who told you I am not a young man? Both of you are old men? Iam not."

  However, it is gratifying to observe that man's (referring to both Male and female) love for inanimate objects, animals and activities hardly dwindles. An American once adduced reason for this never -failing love. According to her, she loved her dog because the animal has never hurt her feelings through word of mouth! So, the words we utter to and about others is a major cause of conflict. 

 Jogging is an habit I have never regrettet venturing into. Though, its not the only pastime I cherish, yet, i savour it much. On hindsight, that very day my friends prompted me to go on a jogging expedition birthed a revolution for me. Secondly, my decision to go on jogging as a way of physical exercise was divinely inspired. Had I not taken into it, how would I have found a way of sweating? 

Jogging has immense benefits:

 it helps me to focus. I still have a profound love for it. It is enlivening. As one of the few ways of life I indulged in, jogging can be beneficial.

  The time now is 5.34 am and I am putting finishing touches to this write up in my head. The memories of those jogging days are being rekindled as we head for church. I look at stretch of the distance and it appears endless even in the car. How I was able all alone to cover this distance,  unprompted in my strides in those days, beats my imagination. Young people are very special in their ways with powers and gifts from above. The joggings of those days boosted my physicality, stamina and resilience as well as unflinching faith in God and myself. 


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