A regular guest on local news outlets, Sifri’s expertise and guidance throughout the pandemic has been of tremendous value, especially on Grounds.
“We relied on them daily and weekly throughout the last 15 months,” UVA President Jim Ryan said of Sifri and Dr. Mitch Rosner during a reception in June 2021. “Any time we had to make a decision about what public health guidelines we were going to put in place, whether we were going to change restrictions or not, we relied on Mitch and Costi.”
And Sifri, to combat the stress that comes with being under such a microscope, relied on his Hoka sneakers, a headlamp and a unique willingness to persevere.
Sifri, 56, has gone for a run of at least one mile for more than 1,600 consecutive days.
“It’s been a fantastic reprieve,” Sifri said. “It’s my go-to activity, along with just being with my family. Finding time and space to decompress, to reset, to find that sense of calmness. It’s an opportunity where you can think about problems, mull over them, come up with solutions that maybe weren’t evident when you started your run. It’s a way to process things in a unique way.
“It’s interesting how the brain is able to do that. That’s been fantastic. I don’t think that’s driven the running, but I’ve seen that as a huge benefit.”
Sifri, by his own admission, is not a gifted athlete. The Oregon native played high school soccer and then picked the sport back up as adult, participating in a Charlottesville recreational league. It’s here where he, then in his early 40s, began to notice teammates suffering serious injuries or experiencing cardiac issues as the result of poor fitness.
It was Sifri’s sign to tweak his own exercise regime.
“I was up 15 pounds and I wasn’t feeling particularly healthy on the field or in general,” Sifri said. “I had been an intermittent runner throughout my whole life, but I decided to become more dedicated.”
Not enough going on with the pandemic, so I finished running every street of Charlottesville. Started before @rickeygates' San Francisco project - a much smaller effort and nowhere near as earnest as Ricky. But I'm happy to get it done. #CityStrides #RunEveryDay @JamesChevalier pic.twitter.com/UHTdA36vdP— Costi Sifri, MD (@costisifri) August 8, 2020
Soon, daily runs turned into half-marathons (13.1 miles) and full marathons (26.2). Later, he developed a passion for trail running, which led to ultramarathons (anything over 26.2 miles, but typically a 50k or farther).
Since 2013, Sifri has completed four marathons and 22 official ultramarathons.
“Even though Costi was coming home from work at 10 at night, he would dress up like a Christmas tree, put his lamp on, and go out,” said Debbie Henderson, Sifri’s wife and main running partner. “I still remember the first time he just went out and did a couple miles. He came back and he was just miserable. But he kept going.”
Henderson – who recently ended her own run streak at 1,642 straight days – is a board member of the Charlottesville Area Trail Runners, a club co-founded by UVA commerce professor David Smith that, among other functions, trains together on some of the most extreme terrain in the region.