Meet The Movement Running The Extra Mile to Support AAPI Communities

Chinatown Runners is a movement that seeks to address discrimination experienced by AAPI individuals through running.

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What to Know

  • In February, Victoria Lo founded Chinatown Runners in response to the growing attacks against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) individuals.
  • The movement meets once a month and runs throughout various parts of the city, but always ending in an AAPI neighborhood.
  • On Sunday, the runners went to Chinatown Ice Cream Factory in honor of National Ice Cream Day.

The nationwide spike in violent anti-Asian hate crimes has ignited deep-rooted fears and drawn throughout the U.S.

This increase in hate crimes directed towards the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community during the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many individuals to show their support and work to stop the hate. For some, it was marching in protests and posting on social media with the hashtag #StopAsianHate. For others, it is donating to various organizations and buying from AAPI-owned businesses. But for designer Victoria Lo, running felt like the most natural way to lend the Asian community her support. 

In February, Lo founded Chinatown Runners, a movement that seeks to be in solidarity with the AAPI community. 

“Being Chinese-American and also being a part of this large running community, I kind of wanted to create a community safe-space that also overlaps with the running communities I’m involved with,” said Lo. 

"In a way, this was how I could give back to the communities that mean a lot to me and my heritage growing up."

In a way, this was how I could give back to the communities that mean a lot to me and my heritage growing up.

Victoria Lo, founder of Chinatown Runners

Every month the group meets to go on a run, offering two distances and welcoming runners of all speeds. The start location of each run varies. However, they always end in AAPI centric neighborhoods, which Lo says is an important aspect of the movement. 

“The best part of [the runs] is bringing people into neighborhoods that they might run by and not through,” said Lo. “[I encourage] people to get to know, not just the streets and the routes they’re running through, but the people and communities that live within them.” 

In the past, the movement has ventured in boroughs throughout New York City from Flushing, Queens to the Chinatown in Sunset Park Brooklyn.

Last Sunday, the runners gathered in Brooklyn and ran to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, located in Manhattan’s Chinatown, in honor of National Ice Cream Day. 

This most recent get together came ahead of the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics, where Team USA has a stellar track and field team.

For this event, Chinatown Runners partnered with other local running groups, such as the Brooklyn Running Company. 

“I just moved to Brooklyn and I’ve been looking for different organizations to run with,” said new runner Jessica Von Hertsenberg. “This seemed like it was for a really good cause.”

Meanwhile, Rebekah Tonthat, another runner new to Chinatown Runners, said that both the good cause and the end prize -- ice cream -- were the reasons to participate in the run.

“Well I love ice cream and I love Chinatown,” Tonthat said. “It’s really important for me to stand up for the AAPI community.”

A report in April found that hate crimes committed against the AAPI community increased by 169 percent throughout the country. New York experienced the largest increase, witnessing a surge of 223 percent. 

Lo believes these attacks can be attributed to the decrease of foot traffic in AAPI neighborhoods as well as stigmas about AAPI individuals reinforced during the pandemic.

“There was a large drop in foot traffic and I think the more people we get back into these communities, the safer the streets will start being,” said Lo. 

However, Lo suggests that getting to know these communities is one step that both runners and non-runners can take to end the attacks and discrimination faced by the AAPI community. 

In addition to promoting community, Lo also uses these runs as a way to bring foot traffic to the neighborhoods they run through.

“I think the small microthings that you can do are things like going to a business that you have walked by a dozen times that you never gave much thought to,” Lo said. “Just going inside and seeing what [the business] is all about means a lot.”

Lo said that all the "little things" people can do, "really add up."

While Chinatown Runners seeks to promote awareness regarding the discrimination and hate attacks faced by the AAPI community, the movement highlights other causes as well. In June all of the donations raised by Chinatown Runners went to the Prism Foundation, a nonprofit organization that allocates resources to LGBTQIA+ individuals in need. 

“In the AAPI community I can personally say that there still lacks a lot of support for LGBTQ+ people,” said Lo. “[Prism] is an up and coming organization that I felt was really worthy to highlight.”

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