Feyisa Lilesa: A Runner In Exile (ESPN)

After his dramatic protest at the Rio Olympics, Ethiopian marathoner Feyisa Lilesa didn't feel safe returning home. But even in his new life in America, he can't be sure what waits for him around the corner. (ESPN)

ESPN

He runs on a slender dirt road the color of rust. His legs churn with an easy rhythm as he passes clumps of snow, then thorn trees and sage swaying in the winter wind. Out here on the Arizona desert, he is easy prey.

It’s January, and there’s a stillness about Feyisa Lilesa, even in the 12th mile of a workout. He is with another runner because it’s riskier to train alone. With every compact stride, Lilesa lands on the balls of his feet and then flicks his size 9 Nikes, creating a soft shushing sound. The stillness surrounding him belies the feelings in his heart.

Until late last summer, the 27-year-old called Ethiopia, not Arizona, home. But since the Rio Olympics, when he won a silver medal in the marathon and engaged in a dramatic finish-line protest against the Ethiopian government, Lilesa has been in exile and does not dare go home again.


At the Rio Olympics, Feyisa Lilesa won a silver medal in the marathon and engaged in a dramatic, finish-line protest against the Ethiopian government. (GETTY IMAGES)

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