At age 50, Adedayo Akinbode quit her lucrative engineering job at Shell Nigeria to pursue her passion – marathon racing and globe-trotting. Six years later, she has run 112 marathons in 77 countries and 7 continents; including 8 balcony and 11 virtual marathons since participating in her first race at Ghana’s Accra International Marathon held on September 11, 2013 – where she completed 21,000 meters.
In an interview with Nigeria’s Vanguard Newspaper, Adedayo shared how she began her marathon racing adventures; “One day in 2012, when I went for my annual routine medical checkup, the doctor told me that I was obese with a high cholesterol level and needed to change my lifestyle if I did not want to die young,” she said.
“He also told me, ‘Don’t eat this, don’t eat that,’ and all the things he told me not to eat were what I loved most. I just put the report aside and did nothing about it, although I didn’t want to die.”
However, with Shell’s company-wide initiative to encourage employees to achieve 10,000 steps daily, she found the perfect opportunity to kick-start her marathon race adventures and a journey toward a healthier lifestyle.
“We were tasked to form groups of 7 each and take ten thousand steps every day for one to be normal. Luckily for me, that was the last day for enlistment for the program. I was one of the last people to join a group,” the engineer recalled. “My source of motivation was that each member of the group received a bag and a pair of socks. We were also issued speedometers to monitor how many steps we took daily.”
Aside from marathons, she is a record-breaker who participates in other sporting adventures. In 2014, Adedayo and a group of friends climbed Mount Kilimanjaro – an experience that sparked her desire to seek more challenges.
In 2015, she joined another group of adventurers on the Triple 7 Quest – 7 marathons in 7 Continents within 7 days. Unfortunately, the group completed the challenge in 11 days instead of 7 because of unfavorable weather conditions, and had to camp in Punta Arenas in Chile for an additional 5 days to get clearance to fly to the 7th Continent – Antarctica.
She also participated in the 2019 Khunjerab Pass Marathon, the highest road marathon in the world—all participants who completed the marathon earned Guinness World titles.
Her regular signature is to fly the Nigerian flag whenever she crosses a Finish Line. According to her, it excites her to hear commentators, spectators, and other athletes mention the name of her country as she approaches a Finish Line. She drapes herself in the Nigerian flag to represent Nigeria and lends support in changing the Nigerian narrative across the globe, The Guardian Nigeria reported.
While crossing Finish Lines across the globe, the Guinness World Record holder discovered her love for photography, a passion that has helped her to express the beauty of the world and her beloved country, Nigeria, beyond words. With no formal training in photography, the marathoner and cyclist held her first solo exhibition in Lagos, Nigeria, dubbed “Colors and Flavors,” back in 2021.
In an interview with This Day Live, Adedayo said, “There is beauty in the whole world, but then in other places, I see beauty and the way it’s embraced. But this beauty isn’t as good as the one back in my country. So I decided to start capturing and documenting the beauty in Lagos. When people talk about Lagos, what comes to mind is traffic, a heap of rubbish, and fraudsters, and that’s what few of them would tell you. However, every city has the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
She added, “So I said to myself, I’m a proud Nigerian. Let the CNN’s and the BBC’s talk about the bad and the ugly if they want to, I am going to showcase the good of my city. That’s why I started documenting this and sharing.”
The globetrotter studied Materials and Metallurgical Engineering at the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria. She is also a proud member of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN).
Adedayo is the Founder of the Ile Ife Heritage Marathon, a project that aims to bridge the gap between marathons organized in developing and developed countries with “marathons that meet global standards.”