How ex-soccer player Hellah Sidibe embarked on a five-and-a-half-year run streak

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It is a ritual he has been following for the past five and a half years and 31-year-old Sidibe does not plan to break it anytime soon, no matter where he is and what life throws at him.

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On May 15, 2017, Sidibe decided to run for 10 minutes every day for two weeks. Tired of making hollow promises about going to the gym, he wanted to hold himself accountable to a short, manageable exercise routine.

Sidibe had not begun to escalate his ambitions. The runs went faster and further, and soon he planned to go every day for a year.


Days passed and slowly he started making more milestones – two years, three years, 1,000 days. His only condition, which Sidibe still adheres to, is that his runs are outside and at least two miles long.

Unbeknownst to him, he had become a run streaker – a label for those who make a long-term commitment to running each day.

According to Streak Runners International and the United States Running Streak AssociationAn organization that catalogs streaks, 71-year-old John Sutherland has topped the active running streak list in 53 years—about 19,500 days.
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face fear

Sidibe may be decades away from joining The Disciples of the long-running streak, but his five-and-a-half-year journey has radically redefined his approach to the game.

A promising football player in his youth, Sidibe saw the race as punishment and had sleepless nights the day before the fitness test.

That quickly changed with the advent of his run streak.

“I just said: ‘I want to face a fear, but I’m inviting it,'” Sidibe recalls. “I wasn’t pushing against it — I’m invoking that I really don’t know. I’m making it into something that probably isn’t that bad.

Distance runner Helen Obiri is moving thousands of miles from her home in Kenya to pursue her marathon ambitions

“I saw running as a privilege that not everyone has,” she continues. “I want to use that privilege of mine when there are people out there who can’t walk, let alone walk. It fuels this thing in you, and you get out there and get it done — no excuses.” Is.”

Growing up in Mali, Sidibe would sometimes spend all day playing football in the streets and fields near his family home. He and his friends would idolize Brazilian great Ronaldo – ruthlessly depicting his name and the number nine on the back of his shirt – and at the same time, Sidibe dreamed of playing for Chelsea in the Premier League.

When his family moved to America, those aspirations gained momentum. Sidibe played NCAA Division 1 soccer with the University of Massachusetts and later drew interest from clubs in second division Major League Soccer and Bundesliga 2 in Germany.

He signed a professional contract with Kitsap Pumas, an affiliate of the Seattle Sounders, but visa issues and a limit on the number of non-US citizens allowed on the MLS roster hindered his progress.

Eventually, Sidibe gave up on his football career.

Of his visa problems, he says, “It hurts you — it doesn’t matter how hard you try, but it’s a piece of paper holding you back.”

“Things I didn’t have control over put me in a position where, in retrospect, there’s definitely some depression. I was always a jovial person, but I always found myself unhappy… I was in it.” Gone are the dark places in my life where I didn’t like anything, I wasn’t smiling as much, and I didn’t want to talk to anyone as much as I used to.”

running across America

Even now that Sidibe is an American citizen with no intention of returning to football, his love for the sport waned as he shuffled between teams and trials.

Over time, running became a cornerstone of her life, and on day 163 her fiancé convinced her to make a YouTube video about the run streak.

entitled “Why do I run every day,” It proved to be an instant hit. According to Sidibe, views and comments flooded in and the pair became YouTubers “overnight”. Today his channel hellh goodHas 276,000 subscribers, Top videos have garnered millions of views.
As well as updates on his streak, the channel also documents Sidibe’s experience of adventures of endurance – including his recent participation. Life Time Leadville Trail 100 RunA prestigious 100-mile race in Colorado, and a 3,061-mile, 84-day run across America.
Sidibe competes in the Leadville 100.

Sidibe believes he is the first black person to complete a singles race across America, a feat he achieved last year by running an average of more than 36 miles a day in 14 states.

The challenge didn’t just test his endurance. Sidibe says he was stopped and questioned by police every day, each time explaining how he was completing a transcontinental race for charity – fundraising for a non-profit. soles4soles — and next to that was his two-person support team, RV.

He also says that he was sworn in, called racial slurs, and even threatened to be stabbed while running on Route 66.

Between those episodes, however, there were “beautiful” moments: strangers offering her food, water, and money, as well as people walking with her for parts of the trip.

Says Sidibe, “Even though I had all these tough times, these tough times… you can’t be mad about anything.” “So many people are putting their energy and their power together just to help you.”

The ugly moments of the challenge reminded Sidibe that running could make him vulnerable to racist abuse.

He says he has never felt unsafe in his neighborhood in New Jersey, but makes a conscious effort to “look like a runner” when he moves. That means wearing specific running gear—a vest, headphones, a back hat that doesn’t cover his face—and carrying hiking poles on trails and hills.

“Even with running across America, the pole I held helped a lot on hills, but a lot of times, I didn’t need to,” Sidibe explains.

“I know that if I’m holding it and I have a vest, it’ll make me look like I’m doing something — I’m just not a running person. People are using my race to make decisions that Should not be there to target me too.”

There were times during races across America when Sidibe paused to think Ahmaud ArberyA 25-year-old black man who was chased and killed by three white men while running in a neighborhood near Brunswick, Georgia.

“That could have been me,” Sidibe says, adding that Arbery’s death “scared so many runners.”

“For me, it’s important to be out there to represent, to say to people like me: ‘You know what, the hell’s doing it. I’m going to – it’s okay, we’re fine, we’re safe ,'” Sidibe says. “Let’s think about the positive side of it.”

Sidibe’s relentless enthusiasm and infectious smile have made him a darling of the running community members to whom he mentors and shares his running experience.

While few would argue about the importance of rest days in any training routine, Sidibe says he manages his running load by incorporating lighter days — sometimes just two or three miles at a time. at the distance – and stays injury free with stretching, massage, foam rolling and strength training.

So far, he’s managed to continue his streak through an injury — falling 14 miles a week, while managing damage to his posterior shin — and surgery to remove a wisdom tooth.

Can Sidibe ever imagine the end of his streak?

“Only the day I wake up and realize I don’t like it at all,” he says. “I give myself permission to quit every day. There’s no pressure to keep going and keep it up.”

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