Runners pick up garbage to dispel stereotypes

Athletes in a popular running group that connects people new to Canada from China have started organizing community cleanup runs, picking up several bags of garbage from Metro Vancouver parks.

Lapower Running Club boasts more than 1,200 members in five Lower Mainland cities, with about 350 members in the Richmond chapter.

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“We help people get out the door and have a short run together and chat to build up the community,” said Donna An, a Richmond member.

Group members primarily communicate via WeChat, a Chinese social network and messaging app. They for meet weekly social runs, distance runs and monthly “plogging” adventures—where they don vests and grab tongs to pick up trash.

“Caucasians, or people being here long, see a group of Chinese people picking up garbage and they find it interesting,” An said. “There are stereotypes in thinking about Chinese people. This is an effort to make a change.”

Picking up trash
Lapower runners pick up trash on running trails. Photo: Instagram/@lapower_running

The runners see it as a good way to give back to the community and protect the environment. When they started, though, An said she was disappointed at how much garbage they found on trails in Pacific Spirit Park and near Burnaby Lake—about three full bags for each location.

“It’s very sad to see all the garbage,” An said. “But it feels good for our team.”

So far they’ve tackled the Vancouver and Burnaby parks, and hope to organize a cleanup run in Richmond soon.

An, who grew up in Beijing, was one of the founders of the club. She started it with other runners when she moved to Vancouver after finishing her studies in Calgary.

“I came to Vancouver in 2014, and at that time I had no friends. It was a completely new city,” she said. “I liked running. So I was like maybe I should just go out running and try to kill some time”

She credits Lapower with helping her make friends, including with the man who is now her husband.

“Running can be boring. But it can be so social and very romantic,” she said.

Lapower running
Lapower runners pick up garbage in Burnaby at the end of their run. It's an activity known as "plogging." Photo: Courtesy of Lapower

An admires the strength of many of her female running friends she’s met through the group. Some are mothers who are raising their children here alone while their husbands work in China.

Whether the goal is just to get outside or to train for a race, members support each other. Lapower has 85 people doing the Bank of Montreal Vancouver Marathon on May 5—the third largest group that’s registered. 

“We try to use running as a healthy approach to letting people know you can enjoy Vancouver, or life in Canada, in a different way,” An said.  “Not only go out partying. We try to let people know that there are healthier ways to build community.” 

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