A clear sky soars above the gently winding Akure-Idanre road, and the bright sun accentuates the brightly coloured jerseys of a hundred marathon athletes dotting the stretch between the two towns. It is Mare festival day 2, and the events had been kicked off by a marathon race from Akure to Idanre towns- a distance of 13km.
Enthusiastic school children line the main road, waving small Nigerian flags and cheering up the weary athletes as they run through the villages. Numerous villagers had also returned early from their farms and had taken seats under shades of trees along the road so as not to miss the Mare marathon race.
Drops of sticky sweat wet the tarred road at different places, and dusty running boots dry them up as able bodied men and women race for the prize of the winner athlete.
Some of the runners had started getting tired and had resorted to walking; others keep jugging despite the fatigue rocking their frames; while some others quench their thirsts with sachets of “pure water” handed them by compassionate passer-bys.
It’s Màré festival, and it’s all about being the strongest athlete in the land, therefore, they must not ‘ré’ (fall) by the way side. Between Alade and Idanre towns, the topography runs wild, rising and falling with crests and troughs along steep rock slopes and heavily forested valleys.
Concurrently, rustic Idanre children had begun contesting for the junior category champion mountain climber of the Mare 2011 . The challenge was to climb horizontally through a 7m stretch of steep rock face, using small pegs of wood on the rock as support.
It was tough and onerous, and of the fifteen kids that partook in the contest, only six made it to the finish peg. Villagers and foreigners formed an arc around the foot hill, watching with rapt attention and great apprehension as each kid climbed the pegs.
Under a nearby tree, one of the Italian mountain climbers taught the village kids the art of rope walking, while others took to the steep slopes of Ojimoba and climbed to it peak about 400 m high.
The events of the day ended with several performances and displays from various cultural troops within the State. Numerous Nollywood stars also showed up at the venue, among which were Ebun Oloyede (Olaiya) and Sunday Omobolanle (Pa Aluwe).
By Folarin Kolawole, www.naijatreks.com