The journey of a thousand miles: how one man is running across America

Andre+ran+through+Kansas%2C+including+a+stop+in+Topeka%2C+before+crossing+over+into+Colorado.

Andre Belibi Eloumou

Andre ran through Kansas, including a stop in Topeka, before crossing over into Colorado.

Liam H. Flake and Caroline Sears

ANDRE RUN USA – one man, one road, one cause

“When I started running across the Brooklyn Bridge, I’m like ‘that’s it.’ When I went across the Hudson River to run from lower Manhattan to Liberty City, I’m like ‘that’s it.’”

Andre Belibi Eloumou is running across America. Running about 33 miles each day for seven or eight hours, Andre is spending five months on the road following a route from Brooklyn to Santa Monica. He recently stopped by Fossil Ridge High School classrooms to share his story.

Liam H. Flake
Andre presents his story to a class at Fossil.

So far, he is almost three months and 1,875 miles in. By March, he will have accomplished the equivalent of 137 marathons.

“I went from Liberty City to New Jersey and to Newark. There wasn’t a lot of pedestrian ways, so I had to do a detour almost eight miles. I started my first day of running, there started to be cramps in my legs, it was getting dark. I was like ‘agh, my gosh,’ but, you know.”

With every step closer to his destination, Andre remembers why he is running. “I’m doing it for my father.” His dad left Cameroon, a country in central Africa, with just 50 dollars in his pocket in search of a better life for his future family in Europe. It took a perilous journey through shark-infested waters and isolating language barriers to finally settle down in France.

After Andre’s father passed 13 years ago, he has kept his memory alive through these marathons. He has run across Europe and now America in attempts to remember to the trail his father blazed in the seventies. As he travels the United States, he shares this anecdote and the meaning that can be taken from it. “Everyone has a tendency to take things for granted, but we don’t know what our ancestors went through.”

His run raises awareness for refugees in need of education. He supports the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, because of his father’s story. His gratitude for what his father sacrificed for him is overwhelming, and the reason why he values education for refugees so much. People who follow his journey and support the cause can donate on his website. 

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Andre wakes up early and starts his day with an hour of mindfulness meditation and prayer. His religion is a motivation and a comfort for him as he runs. He only rests on Sundays, to honor the sabbath. 

Andre Belibi Eloumou
Andre poses in front of the “Colorful Colorado” sign to celebrate having just a few more states to cross.

Breakfast is usually a carbohydrate for quick energy, like rice or bread. Andre cut red meat out of his diet and says his energy has improved immensely. When it comes to hydration, as Andre runs he will break every few hours to chug some water and maybe have a snack. Without skipping a beat, he’ll get back on the road. He started the journey with a weighted backpack on, but has recently exchanged it for a pushable stroller.

As he runs, Andre takes time to clear his mind. Rarely listening to music, he meditates and prays when things get hard. Through hours and hours of running, he focuses on his purpose. And when he needs an extra kick of motivation, he will set his sights on a landmark on the horizon and pour his energy into reaching it. 

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While on the road, Andre has encountered a variety of places and people—in doing so, he has even made some friends. 

“I was in West Virginia, crossing the Ohio River, entering Ohio… I went through a rural area and there was a dog barking, and he started chasing me, and I was like, ‘Hmm, a little nervous about it.’”

Andre recounts how, for a brief time, he found an unsolicited travel partner in a golden retriever that began to follow him. This was only furthered when he decided to feed the dog a muffin.

“And you know what, this was the biggest mistake that I did because when I gave him the muffin, he never let it go.”

After this, the dog followed him for a couple of miles, and Andre felt morally obligated to call the veterinarian, the pound, and the dog’s owner. After a few phone calls to the Ohio Animal Control, he agrees to take it if he can bring it five or six more miles. And thus Andre fashions a leash and continues onward with the dog, and even carries it across a bridge before ensuring its safe return with the Ohio Animal Control. “We developed a friendship, a relationship.”

Andre Belibi Eloumou
Andre made a friend along the way to Ohio.

This, however, is not the only friend Andre has made in his journeys. In Kansas, at the beginning of the new year, he was joined by Phil Skow, who now drives alongside Andre and provides support for him. Skow has even started jogging along with him.

In addition to this, Andre’s voyage has provided him with the opportunity for a variety of fun and enjoyable experiences On Saturday, January 18, he was able to camp in the Rockies, and though it was quite cold, and he had some fear of potential wolves or bears (especially after hearing something outside the tent), he was kept warm by his tent and sleeping bag and slept quite well. Andre rests on Sundays, giving him more time for recreation, including a recent off-roading Jeep trip.

Andre’s run across America is a campaign, all in the interest of spreading his message and raising awareness for his cause. This cross-continent race, however, is only the start of Andre’s plans. After reaching his destination in California, he hopes to move forward, both with his campaign and with his own life.

Don’t wait for the perfect moment. The perfect moment will never happen.””

— Andre Belibi Eloumou

“My ideal is to be, maybe, near Fort Collins, let’s say one or two hours into the mountains. You know, have a little chalet cottage. With my WiFi and everything, I can do my business online, and do conferences as well. I’m not too far from Fort Collins or Denver if I need to take an international flight or something.”

This vision is what keeps Andre running. 

“I want to get a new life. Go toward my dreams, I want to get married, I want to set up my business. I want to be a better person, and be an example for others.” His motivational business is in the early stages but is already much more than just a dream. His visit to Fossil proved that his motivational story needs to be told.

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“When you have a goal, it doesn’t matter what your background is. When you have a goal, you have a vision, you have to write it down, you have to work for your plan.”

At the heart of Andre’s message is a call to action. When speaking to students, he uses his experience to encourage students to stop waiting, set out, and work towards their goals. 

“You just gotta work for your goal, right? Don’t wait for the perfect moment. Perseverance, hard work, determination. And you’re gonna meet failure.”

And these failures, too, are discussed as part of achieving one’s goals. An image in his presentation shows Andre on the ground, lying in the snow. He explains how, at this point in his run, he collapsed and simply stayed there for a minute; regardless, he got up and continued running for another twenty miles.

Andre Belibi Eloumou
At this point in his run, he collapsed and simply stayed there for a minute; regardless, he got up and continued running for another twenty miles.

“I think it’s inspiring, especially for (his audience), because I don’t like to put “me, me” first, that’s not what it is. If I can inspire people, you know, to do something that they think they can do. For example: ‘if he can do it, he doesn’t have a long-distance runner’s background’” —and this is true, as Andre’s experience prior to his continental treks was mostly as a sprinter— “‘if he can do it, why can’t I do it?’ You know, it’s kind of like a chain, like something positive is contagious, and people say ‘okay, if he can do this, then I can too, and he can and he can, and she can and she can.’” 

With every state border crossed and step taken, Andre is spreading positivity and encouragement to everyone who hears his incredible story.