Thang You, 38, couldn’t imagine that he would one day be running in the LA Marathon that he watched as a young boy. Now the marathon has kick-started his health journey and motivated him to raise funds for Cambodian Children’s Fund in the process. Below, Thang You tells us what inspired him to take these big strides

My family was one of the hundreds of Cambodian families that escaped Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime during the late ’70s. We migrated to Thailand and settled at a refugee camp where I was born in 1980. I am one of 10 brothers and I have one sister. We were one of the fortunate ones to have been sponsored to come to the United States.

When we arrived in the United States we moved around and finally settled in Los Angeles, California in the late ’80s and early ’90s. We lived just a block away from Sunset Boulevard in Chinatown. It was one of the routes for the LA Marathon. Every year, my brothers would walk me down to see all the runners. At the time, I was only 9 or 10 years old and I really didn’t understand why these people were running. But seeing all the runners and people cheering them on made me excited.

Fast forward 28 years later (I’m now 38 years old) and I had forgotten all about the marathon. I was always an active kid growing up and I participated in a few martial arts, but as I grew older I became overweight and very unhealthy. The stresses of day-to-day life had taken over and I felt I had to do something about it.

I began with a one-mile jog around my neighbourhood. It was rough starting out, I couldn’t even run a quarter of a mile without feeling sick, but I knew I had to stick with it and stay strong. After a few weeks, I was getting better and better.

One morning after a run, I turned on the TV and they were broadcasting the LA Marathon. All of a sudden, I felt that excitement I felt when I was a child watching all the runners. I thought to myself, maybe I can do that. It could be some extra motivation to help me to be healthy and fit again. A few weeks later, I signed up for the 2019 LA Marathon and began training.

A few months into my training and running a few small races, I began to feel as though training for a marathon is a very selfish and lonely sport. The only competition you have is yourself and the clock. I thought to myself, maybe there is something I can do to make this about more than just myself. To get more people involved I decided to use the LA Marathon to fundraise.

After searching online, I came across Cambodian Children’s Fund [CCF]. I read about the organisation and about Scott Neeson’s story and I was left inspired.

In 2012, I travelled to Cambodia to marry my wife. I saw first-hand the struggles and hardships and poverty many Cambodians deal with day-to-day. Reading about CCF brought back those memories and I decided to that I would fundraise for Cambodian Children’s Fund.

Thank you CCF and Scott Neeson for all the sacrifices and all you do for the Cambodian people!

  • CCF would like to say a huge thank you to Thang You, we are so pleased that he has chosen to support CCF and admire his sheer determination! If you would like to donate to Thang You’s fundraiser for the LA Marathon on 24 March click here.

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