Step by step, Leland Yu promotes wellness for walkers and for Chinatown. We caught up with him on a night he’d typically be running. On this night, he took it slow with the people who keep him going.
"This is a growing community of runners I did not foresee," Yu said.
"Businesses were suffering,” Yu recalled. “The streets were empty. Morale was extremely low."
Yu had recently taken up running so he set himself a personal challenge: run for 12 hours and get his friends and family to donate a dollar for every mile. The money would go to an organization helping to keep Chinatown businesses afloat. Welcome to Chinatown paid struggling restaurants to cook meals for frontline workers.
"Nobody knew how far I was going to go,” Yu said. “I didn't either until the end. And people said 'Hey Leland. I didn't know that you were going to go so far.'"
Yu ran 61 miles and raised $25,000.
It worked so well the first time — he did it again. He ran another 60 plus miles and raised another $25,000 for organizations building up the neighborhood.
Growing in popularity, Yu started a weekly running group last year. Runners divide into groups based on ability and make their way through Chinatown and Lower Manhattan. The group is open to all — but Yu takes particular pride in encouraging Asian New Yorkers to run.
"I didn't see any Asian faces in running growing up so part of my personal mission is to be that Asian face or be one Asian face that you see running a marathon," he said.
Yu knows running can help people physically and mentally.
"Maybe I'll never know the extent of change that we're actually making here,” he said. “But if I can change one person's, two peoples' lives, I'll be happy with that."
For keeping Chinatown on the move, Leland Yu is our New Yorker of the Week.