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Still Running

Hellah Sidibe ’13 keeps on ‘running for those who can’t’

You may know Hellah Sidibe ’13 as the first Black man to run across the United States. Though it’s hard to keep up with him, we can confirm that he hasn’t stopped. In November 2022, Sidibe hit day 2,000 in his running streak, which he is using to inspire and change lives through his online presence. “I am very excited to have hit 2,000 days running,” he says. “I’m one of those kinds of people who let things come to me. The streak started because I was facing a fear of running. Now I’ve been running every day for years.”

His incredible 84-day nationwide trek—which started in Los Angeles and ended in New York City on May 23, 2021—was just one part of his running streak. After that, an unusual opportunity arose, pushing Sidibe to race the Leadville Trail 100 Run—an ultramarathon through the Colorado Rockies—just to see if he could. “With the Leadville Ultra, the saying is that ‘the Leadville finds you; you don’t find it,’” he explains. “So, when I was listening to the book Born to Run, which was talking about this ultra-endurance run, it found me, and I got the idea to test myself to see if I could run 100 miles.”

Sidibe’s philosophy of letting things come to him stems from his own experience with finding happiness. “I don’t want to always be forcing myself to have the ‘next something’ to do because I believe that if I am always chasing stuff, I will never be satisfied.”

But things keep finding him. In 2019, he was given a slot in the New York City Marathon. Without any training, he entered and just tried to hit a set racing time. After that experience, he says he “got the bug” and became eager to run another one—this time with specialized training. “Now, I’m going to take the opportunity to properly train for a marathon. I’ve never really dedicated a training block for a marathon race.” In 2023, he plans to “go full force and train the best I can for a spring marathon; either the London Marathon or Boston.”

Sidibe believes his time at UMass was a major catalyst for where he is now. “UMass had a huge impact on me,” he shares. “My whole goal in life was to become either a pro soccer player or a pilot, but for reasons outside of my control … I got pushed off that path. But I found a way to create my own path, with help from my late soccer coach Sam Koch and the lessons I learned at UMass … they pushed me to become who I am today. And now, I can’t even imagine another life.”

Using each experience he has had with running, Sidibe has become skilled at finding creative ways to give back. “I like to say I run for those who can’t,” he explains. Sidibe is currently fundraising for Soles4Souls and for Charity: Water. Long term, he plans to do something specifically for his home country, Mali, one of the poorest nations in the world—sharing the joy, and resources—he has found in running with his community. “I want to have a running club for kids that provides everything they need, whether it’s shoes or clothing. I also want to create my own nonprofit in the future, using all my networks now to build it up and raise funds to give more access to people who don’t currently have basic human necessities.”

He also plans to do a “Hellah Good” running tour—going to big cities around the world—finding a way to combine his love of travel, food, and, of course, running.

Keep pace with Hellah Sidibe on his Instagram.

A grid of photos from Hellah Sidibe’s Instagram account show him running and preparing for runs