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.

What You Need To Know

  • Leland Yu is the founder of Run for Chinatown, a group that organizes weekly runs around Chinatown and Lower Manhattan

  • Yu first ran for Chinatown in 2020 as a way to raise money for struggling businesses in the neighborhood. In 12 hours, he ran more than 60 miles and raised $25,000

  • Monday night runs are open to everyone. He especially hopes it shows that Asians have a place on the running track

Yu is the founder of Run for Chinatown. It started two years ago after he lost his job as a cook because of COVID. And his neighborhood was sinking under the pressures of the pandemic.

"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.