The NFL season is a marathon, not a sprint.
For 32-year-old Seattle native and Seahawks super-fan Holly Diop, a similar mantra applies.
Every gameday for the past five years, Diop has run a near half-marathon - and at often times more than that – while proudly wielding a large Seahawks flag in her hands.
“I run around every gameday, win or lose, with my flag,” said Diop. “I just like to get all the kids and all the adults and everybody really excited.”
Diop’s runs have varied in distance from 12 miles – for the 12th Man – to 20 miles, a feat she accomplished prior to the Seahawks divisional playoff against the Atlanta Falcons a season ago. It has been an ongoing project for people within Diop’s Interbay CrossFit community to post pictures or videos on social media if they see her out running with the flag on gameday.
Diop’s gameday spurts not only ignite and energize her surrounding community, but serve as a way to carry on her father’s memory.
“Growing up, my father liked to get us together to watch the game,” said Diop, who started watching games with her father in middle school and who first attended a Seahawks game with her father at Husky Stadium. “The atmosphere around friends and family was so exciting. After he passed away I wanted to keep going with that atmosphere.”
Those gameday values of friendship and camaraderie that Diop’s father developed in her were first passed on to close friends, then to neighbors, and eventually to complete strangers.
“I just wanted to get everybody involved,” said Diop.
Donning her Wolf Grey jersey for runs while the team is on the road and her Seahawks blue jersey when the club plays at home, Diop decks herself out in as much blue and green garb as possible.
“I would start running around town in the Seahawks colors and gear the first year and then I just kept picking up new stuff – little 12th Man flags and then big 12th Man flags,” she said.
After Sunday’s 12-7 Seahawks win over the Carolina Panthers, Diop laced up, grabbed her flag and hit the ground running through Seattle’s busy downtown streets.
The Seahawks fanaticism was obvious. Everybody Diop saw was wearing a Seahawks jersey as they filed out of nearby bars, houses and social gatherings.
On this particular run, she came across a group of elderly tourists who expressed a youthful elation upon setting eyes on the Seahawks clad Diop and her flag, springing forth to offer Diop high fives as she passed.
“It means everything,” Diop said of her gameday tradition. “Strangers that won’t even give you the time of day - it’s almost like you’ve known each other forever. Kids that are usually clinging to their mom’s legs because they’re so scared or shy get so excited and start jumping around, giving high fives, shouting ‘Go Hawks!’
“It means a lot because it brings everybody together.”
Sixty-seven thousand-plus will be brought together on Sunday night when the Seahawks take on the San Francisco 49ers in the team’s home-opener at CenturyLink Field. The outcome of that game remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: Diop’s gameday run will inspire, energize and strengthen the Seahawks community.