It’s a ritual he’s maintained for the past five-and-a-half years and 31-year-old Saidiba doesn’t plan on breaking it anytime soon, regardless of where he is and what life throws at him.
On May 15, 2017, Sidibe decided to run for 10 minutes every day for two weeks. Tired of making empty promises about going to the gym, he wanted to hold himself accountable to a small, manageable exercise routine.
It wasn’t long before Sidibi began to expand his ambitions. The runs became faster and longer, and soon he planned to go every day for a year.
Days passed and gradually he started hitting more milestones – two years, three years, 1000 days. His only stipulation, which Sidbi still adheres to, is that his runs be outdoors and at least two miles long.
Unbeknownst to him, he had become a run streaker — a label for people who make a long-term commitment to run every day.
Facing the fear
Sidibe may still be decades away from being among streak running’s longest-serving disciples, but his five-and-a-half-year journey has completely redefined his view of the sport.
A talented soccer player in his youth, Sidibe saw running as a 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 in,'” Sidibi recalls. “I wasn’t pushing against it — I was inviting something that I didn’t really know. I was making it into something that might not be so bad.
“I saw running as a privilege that not everyone has,” he continues. “I want to exercise my privilege when there are people who can’t walk, let alone run. It fuels that thing in you, and you get out there and do it — no excuses. Is.”
These aspirations grew exponentially when his family moved to America. Sidibe played NCAA Division 1 soccer with the University of Massachusetts and later attracted interest from clubs in the second division Major League Soccer and Bundesliga 2 in Germany.
He signed a professional contract with the Kitsap Pumas, an affiliate of the Seattle Sounders, but visa issues and a limit on the number of non-US citizens allowed on an MLS roster hindered his progress.
Eventually, Sidibe gave up his football career.
“It hurts you — it doesn’t matter how hard you work, but this piece of paper is holding you back,” he says of his visa problems.
“Things that were out of my control kind of put me in a situation where, looking back, there’s definitely some depression. I was always a happy person, but I always found myself sad… A dark place 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 the US.
Even now that Sidibi is an American citizen, he has no plans to return to soccer, having lost his love for the game after switching between teams and trials.
Over time, running became the cornerstone of her life, and on day 163, her fiancé convinced her to make a YouTube video about the run streak.
Sidibe believes he is the first black man to ever run solo across the United States, a feat he accomplished last year by running an average of more than 36 miles a day across 14 states.
He also says he was sworn at, racially abused, and even threatened with a knife while walking on Route 66.
However, in between these episodes, there were “beautiful” moments: strangers offering him food, water and money, as well as people rushing to accompany him on the journey.
“Even though I had all these hard times, these hard times… you can’t be mad about anything that was going on,” says Saidibi. “Many people are putting their energy and their strength just to help you.”
The ugly moments of the challenge were a reminder for Sidibe that running can expose him to racist abuse.
He says he’s never felt unsafe in his New Jersey neighborhood but makes a conscious effort to “look like a runner” when he runs. That means wearing specific running gear — a vest, headphones, a backwards hat that doesn’t cover his face — and carrying hiking poles on trails and hills.
“Even with the race across America, the pole I was holding on to on the hills helped a lot, but a lot of the time, I didn’t need it,” Sidibi explains.
“I know if I’m holding it and I have the vest on, it’s going to make me look like I’m doing something — I’m not just a person who’s running. People make decisions about my running. are being used for things that shouldn’t be. Even there to target me.”
“It could have been me,” says Sidibi, adding that Arberry’s death “scared a lot of runners.”
“For me, it’s important to be there to represent, to tell people like me: ‘You know, what the Hell is doing. I’m going to — it’s OK, we’re OK, we are safe'” says Saidibi. “Let’s think about the positive side of it.”
Sidibe’s constant enthusiasm and contagious smile have endeared him to members of the running community, to whom he mentors and shares his experience of streaking.
While some would argue the importance of rest days in any training routine, Sidibe says he manages his running load by incorporating light days — sometimes just two or so at a time. Walk three miles — and stay injury-free with stretching, massage. Foam rolling and strength training.
So far, he’s managed to maintain his streak through injury — managing damage to his shin by falling 14 miles a week — and surgery to remove a wisdom tooth.
Can Sidibe ever imagine his streak ending?
“Only the day I wake up and realize I don’t like it at all,” he says. “I give myself permission to let go every day. There’s no pressure to keep going and keep going.”