Homeless marathon runner seeks resolution in religion and running


It’s 1 a.m. and the sound of the low, quiet hum of the city lingers in the background.  He begins his daily meditation, yoga and a good book on philosophy before he starts his 20-mile run through the city.

Ade Olude, a London-born Nigerian, is an ultra-marathon runner who lives in a homeless shelter in Atlanta.

Ade Odule, homeless marathon runner, finds himself running for the sake of relaxation and meditation. Photo by Branden Camp.
Ade Odule, homeless marathon runner, finds himself running for the sake of relaxation and meditation. Photo by Branden Camp.

Olude, 44, grew up in London until the age of 7 and moved to a small village in Nigeria, West Africa.  It is in the small town of Ifo that Olude spent 10 years learning life lessons that would set the tone for how he lives today.

Olude watched his uncle slip off daily to practice his religion that many considered voodoo.  He watched and learned from him.  Not his religion, but the way he lived and how his uncle did not judge those around him.  It was a simple life, void of material things.

Olude moved back to London when he was 17 years old.  In his early 20s, he had the opportunity to play professional soccer in London.

His future was looking really good.

“I had so many opportunities, and I didn’t know how to handle it,” said Olude.

He had talent, but with talent came an ego and a bad attitude.

Olude began to surround himself with drugs, and he partied a lot.  The life of a disciplined, promising athlete turned into a life of terrible consequences.

“It took one of my friends overdosing for me to realize, OK, I gotta stop this,” said Olude,

He began to think back on his time in Africa.  He asked himself, “Would I be living like this if I were in Africa?”

“It really saved my life,” said Olude.

He eventually moved to the U.S. in hopes of playing Major League Soccer.  He received a scholarship at Colorado Christian College, but he blew his chance as his demons seemed to follow him across the ocean.  He soon found himself among the same negative influences in the U.S.

Anger and bitterness replaced confidence and assurance. Not only did he lose his chance at a successful career as a professional athlete, he could not work because of his immigration status.  Soon, he found himself homeless.

Olude began to study religion.  He explored atheism, Buddhism and anything he could get his hands on.  It was only when he began to run that he learned to deal with the stress in his life.

He ran the Disney Marathon as his first race in 2003.

“When I hit that 18 mile marker, it was like a truck came out and hit me,” said Olude.

One day, Olude emailed and introduced himself to Larissa Stewart, a publisher in Atlanta.  Stewart is a publisher for a magazine called Natural Awakenings.  It is a publication that Olude was very passionate about as it aligned with his life philosophy and beliefs.

“We started a dialog,” said Stewart.

After emailing back and forth, Olude and Stewart really seem to hit it off.

Throughout their dialog, she learned Olude spent much of his day wandering out in the streets of Atlanta with not much to do.  This is when she invited Ade to begin staying at her home with her family during the day.

Olude returns to Gateway, a homeless shelter in downtown Atlanta, to sleep every night.  Not only does Olude run for himself, but he runs to bring awareness to homelessness in Atlanta.

“I’m a voice for the poor,” says Olude.

It’s a community like the Stewarts thatOlude truly feels he belongs.

“I’ve never felt more at home,” he said as he sits outside the home of Stewart.

Stewart describes Olude’s running as rhythmic and like meditation.

“It’s like he can run forever,” said Stewart.

On the weekends, Olude will run as much as 50 miles each day and return to the Stewart’s to help with tasks around the house.

Olude’s endurance was tested recently during a race in Philadelphia.  After spending 24 hours on a Greyhound bus, he slept a few hours, woke up early and ran a 109-mile race in which he came in 5th place.

“Something about when I run every day, it’s like I’m connected to this universe,” said Olude. “I run to inspire people.”



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