Why I Run

Almost a year ago, I wrote:

I am nowhere near marathon qualifying pace and I'm nowhere near marathon distance, but after running in the best and the worst conditions, I know I'll be able to run 26.2 miles. Maybe it will be at a snail's pace and maybe I'll cross the finish line 10 minutes before they close everything up. But at least I won't have the mental road block that keeps telling me "I can't."

Well... in a month's time, I'll be taking on the streets of Staten Island, Brooklyn,  Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan. All 26.2 miles of five boroughs. To say that I'm not nervous would be a lie. And to say that I'm not worried about reaching my marathon fundraising would be a total and complete lie.

So to prepare myself mentally and to share with you my story, I decided I wanted to write this. Today.


If you're a friend of mine on Nike Running or happen to follow my Twitter, where my end of run times and milage post sometimes, you notice that I'm not fast. At all. So qualifying for a marathon is out of the question - if you've been paying attention to the Boston Marathon qualifying news this past week, you'll know it's not getting any easier. Last year I made the decision to reach out to OxFam America (through one my future mother-in-law's connections) for one of their NYC marathon charity spots. I was told that they were still getting the details figured out.

Come Spring of 2015, I reached out again and was accepted. I realize qualifying isn't the same as being taken on as a charity runner but I was excited nonetheless. It's a big commitment and a big step for me.

Last year this time, I was still running 1 to 3 mile runs. Barely keeping pace with the Nike Running Club in Boston. I was at the end of the group most nights. But I made a commitment to myself to show up. There were nights I missed, but I made them whenever I could. I have to give credit to them for really teaching me the benefits of running with other people. I, like many others, always thought running was a lone-wolf type thing but the team at Nike Running Club Boston really changed that for me. (If you live in Boston or are visiting, be sure to check them out. Reserve a spot though, because they fill up quick.)

A photo posted by Risa Xu (@risaxu) on

Typically now is where I tell you I really dedicated myself to training for longer distances, getting my pace quicker, and I'm this amazing runner now. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case for me. Although I signed up for lots of races and distances that I never thought I could ever run, let alone finish, i'm not any faster and I still struggle through my long runs on Saturdays. There's days I question why i signed up for 26.2 miles and a $3,250 fundraising goal. But then there's also days where I can't wait to get out there, even if it's just for a short run. There's days where I should have ran but didn't, and I'm okay with that. My training leading up hasn't been perfect but life isn't perfect (cliche, yes, I know.)

What I do know is that, like I said last year, all I want to do is finish. I want to cross that finish line, upright, on my two feet. If I need a wheelchair afterwards, so be it. But I'm going to get through those 26.2 miles. 

A photo posted by Risa Xu (@risaxu) on

A photo posted by Risa Xu (@risaxu) on

A photo posted by Risa Xu (@risaxu) on

In 2015, I have

  • ran 10K in 17 degree Fahrenheit
  • represented my team (GO PATS!) in enemy territory
  • ran my first half marathon ever with my best friend
  • made the awful decision to run another race the week immediately after said half marathon
  • ran a 10K in 77 degrees with almost 60% humidity
  • ran my SECOND half marathon ever with my best friend, in the happiest run on Earth! (Part I & Part II)

A photo posted by Risa Xu (@risaxu) on

A photo posted by Risa Xu (@risaxu) on

So, on those days I really question my decision for doing this, I look back on these accomplishments in the past year. I think about the lives that were lost on Patriot's Day 2013 in Boston. The lives that were impacted. And how the running community came together to get through a tough time.

And to think last year this time, I had just run my longest distance ever: 6 miles. I'm not perfect, my training hasn't been perfect but the most important thing is that I make it across those finish line, because every step I take, and every mile I finish is fighting poverty. 


I thank everyone who has donated so far - your support literally means everything to me. There are people who have watched me start with 1 mile runs that take almost half an hour. And there are those who are just joining me on my journey as of recently. Regardless of when, all that matters is that you're here with me now.

If you're still not 100% clear on what I'm fundraising for or aren't familiar with Oxfam America, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. I know I always wonder where my money goes when I donate to something so I encourage you to ask!

Oxfam's work falls into four categories:

  • Saving lives: Oxfam assists the poorest communities when disaster strikes, but is also working to ensure greater local resilience and the capacity of local responders and governments to deliver disaster response.

  • Programs to overcome poverty and injustice: Oxfam invests in programs to help people assert their rights so that they can improve their lives.

  • Campaigning for social justice: Oxfam works to change the laws and practices that keep people trapped in poverty.

  • Public education: As part of our efforts to overcome poverty, Oxfam works to change the way people think about poverty and its causes.

If you're a quantitative soul, you're probably interested in the numbers and the results of what they do. From their homepage:

  • 20.7 million people around the world benefited directly from Oxfam's programs last year
  • 66,070 villagers have access to savings and loan opportunities thanks to Oxfam's efforts and,
  • 240,000 activists successfully urged companies to fight climate change and support farmers.

So, help make a difference. With your support, I'll be helping Oxfam to fight poverty and injustices for people all over the world with every mile of 26.2 miles.