Unity in Strides: David Lam's Story of Community and Western States

In the heart of the running community, both virtual and local to the San Francisco’s Bay Area, ultrarunner David Lam uses his passion for running as a binding force for countless others. Ahead of the 2023 Western States Endurance Run, the world’s oldest 100-mile trail race, David shares his remarkable journey, rich with connections, representation, and resilience.

Uniting Through Running: A Community Beyond Boundaries

For David Lam, the definition of success transcends personal accomplishments. It finds its roots in the connections he forges through running. To him, running is the glue that binds individuals from diverse backgrounds, races, paces, and life experiences. His endeavors in the running community have earned him the moniker “Mayor of San Francisco,” a title he holds not for political influence, but for his role in unifying runners and fostering a sense of belonging. His mission isn’t just to cross finish lines but to bring others along on the journey, demonstrating that in running, the true victory is in the shared experience.

From Novice to Ultrarunner: David’s Unconventional Path

David’s journey into the world of running took an unconventional route. He embarked on his running journey as an adult in 2017, an now has his sights set on the daunting challenge of the 2023 Western States 100-miler. From the start, he found joy on the trails and steadily racked up miles, progressing through various race distances to ultramarathons. Uphill battles and mental challenges greeted him along the way, forcing him to confront the mental side of ultrarunning.

Drawing inspiration from Addie Bracy’s book “Mental Training For Ultrarunning,” David honed his mental fortitude, integrating the book’s techniques into his training. He also turned to resources like the “For The Long Run” podcast, as he dived deep into understanding his own running motivations and “why”. 

Trails and Trials: The Power of Community Support

Endurance running, particularly at the magnitude of Western States, demands more than just physical stamina; it requires a robust support system. The unsung heroes of ultraraces, the crews, face logistical challenges that can rival the athletes’ own feats. David humorously acknowledges the crew’s vital role, acknowledging the race day logistical scramble they face in servicing their athletes amidst rugged terrains and unpredictable conditions.

It’s not just the crew that has been David’s backbone; it’s the running community itself. When faced with the recent loss of his father, David turned to running to navigate his grief. The running community rallied around him, providing an unwavering support system that enabled him to channel his emotions into training for Western States.

Representation and Belonging: A Trailblazer’s Mission

As a first-generation Asian American, David recognizes the importance of representation and belonging in the running world. He understands the struggles of those who come from minority backgrounds, navigating a landscape that may feel unfamiliar or exclusive. Drawing from his own experiences of growing up in an immigrant family without exposure to sports, he becomes a beacon of relatability, showing others that they, too, can find their place in the running community.

Listen to the podcast here.