Soufiane Bouchikhi Trains for the Payton Jordan Invitational in Mammoth Lakes

Soufiane Bouchikhi is one of the most disciplined 29-year-olds you’ll ever meet—his biggest vice is watching Game of Thrones. That, and the Vons grocery store in Mammoth Lakes. He goes there at least once a day.

The Belgian distance runner speaks four languages (French, Dutch, English and Moroccan—his parents emigrated from Morocco before he was born), avoids sugar and alcohol, and trains unflinchingly for competition in both the 5K and 10K. His goal is to compete in both events in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Oh, and Bouchikhi earned a degree in engineering management from Eastern Kentucky University, which he obtained while simultaneously crushing it on the track and field team. No big deal.

Staying at The Crib & Training in Mammoth Lakes

This April, Bouchikhi lived a mostly ascetic life at the Mammoth Lakes Crib while training for the Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford University in May.

He wakes up, runs, eats, naps, runs again, makes his daily pilgrimage to Vons (“there’s just something that calls me in there, every day, to get something new!”) and, if he’s got the energy, watches HBO to unwind. It’s Bouchikhi’s second time staying at The Crib, and he correlates his high-altitude train-cation with vastly improved performance at sea level.

Get to Know Soufiane Bouchikhi

He’s been competing in running for 13 years, and his hard work has finally paid off—Bouchikhi just became a Belgian government-sponsored athlete. He’s also sponsored by Adidas—he’s got about eight pairs of shoes lining the foyer of The Crib.

Bouchikhi found running after spending his youth as a soccer player in Antwerp. He’s one of eight kids (six brothers, one sister) and the siblings were always pretty active (one of his younger brothers is also a runner).

One year, “at the end of my soccer season, my coach suggested we stay in shape because we were off for about two months.” There was a 10-mile and 5K road race in Antwerp, and then-16-year-old Bouchikhi decided to enter the 5K, with no training other than soccer. He won it.

“On my soccer team, I was lapping all the players,” he recalls. “I knew I could run, but I didn’t know I would win my first race ever.” He got a lot of media attention for besting semi-professional runners out of the gate. Once he realized he had the potential to succeed at running, he had to make a choice. Soccer was fun. Running… well, running would take a big commitment. Bouchikhi jumped in.

“Soccer is a completely different sport than running. I consider [soccer] a game. I could play 2-3 hours of soccer and I wasn’t tired. But I’m always tired after running.” Running isn’t a game. In fact, “It’s kind of a boring sport,” he jokes.

Soufiane Bouchikhi’s 2020 Olympics Goals

Bouchikhi says there are only about four professional distance runners sponsored by the Belgian government. It took him 10 years of grueling training to get that contract.

He’s pre-selected for the 2020 Olympics, and, like most professional athletes, Bouchikhi walks a tightrope between ultimate performance and injury.

In true Belgian fashion, Bouchikhi likens professional athletes to “a diamond. A fine-cut diamond is beautiful, but if you throw it on the ground, it might break. But if you have a rough diamond, it’s much more durable.”

So he’s working on becoming as faceted as possible—without breaking.

Does Bouchikhi ever think about the relatively easy life of soccer fame he passed up for the grueling sport of running? Maybe, but he’s into the zen of dedication. For instance, he doesn’t even crank the tunes when training. “I used to run with music all the time,” he says, but no longer.

“I’m really getting into working with my mind when I’m running, visualizing my goals. I believe in meditation, and if you visualize your goals, then most of the time, you achieve them.”

Life at The Crib (Between Runs)

He does let loose a little sometimes—when cooking an omelet at The Crib for the Cooking at the Crib video series, he added curry to his eggs(!). He also loves treating himself to Salsa’s Taqueria when he’s too lazy to cook.

When he’s not running a blitzkrieg at high altitude, he lives in Liege, Belgium with his fiancée (who he, adorably, already refers to as his wife). She’s a great cook, Bouchikhi says, and she teased him when he told her he was going to make an omelet for his Cooking at the Crib video. As simple as an omelet may seem for a cooking show, The Crib’s media crew predicts that, come the 2020 games, they’ll have eaten an omelet made by an Olympian, which is pretty cool.

Sarah Rea

Sarah Rea has lived in the Sierra for 20 years (eight in Yosemite and seven so far in Mammoth Lakes), but has been eating cast iron skillet pancakes for most of her life. She learned how to make soap from bacon grease when she was four and has always loved picking wild berries. She thinks…

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