San Francisco runner has creative way to motivate others to vote

A San Francisco woman has come up with a creative way to motivate people to vote.

It all came about after her plan to run the Chicago Marathon got scrapped because of COVID.

Emily Hou of San Francisco had planned to run the Chicago marathon Sunday.

But when she was forced to change her plans months ago, she thought of a different run, one with a purpose.

Hou began lacing up her sneakers in June to begin training.

With COVID, marathons were being canceled, and in July Hou and a friend got the news Chicago would be no different.

“We were both like, well, we saw this coming and it’s for the best, but it was definitely a little disappointing for sure,” said Hou.

Already well into her training, Hou decided to continue, keeping that goal of 26.2 miles in her sights.

Chicago offered up a “virtual experience,” asking participants to complete a marathon and post it on social media.

So, the experienced runner with both the San Francisco and Boston marathons under her belt, needed a route.

But for her it wouldn't be any route; It was an opportunity to do something special.

“Either maybe I thought I could run some bridges or I could do something that I’d never run in the city and that got me into thinking of doing something a little creative with the route itself,” said Hou.

She used the popular website Strava to meticulously plan a run through San Francisco’s Richmond District.

Saturday, she set out on her circuitous route, up and down hills, around corners, even backtracking at times.

Exactly 26.3 miles later, her GPS tracking displayed her completed marathon with a message.

In block letters, her steps traced out the words, “Vote 2020.”

“No matter what your political preferences, there’s one thing that we all have in common which is encouraging people to go out and vote.”

After immigrating to the US as a child, Hou became a citizen in 2016 and voted for the first time.

“This is something that I don't take for granted, the ability to vote. This will be my second presidential election ever so, yeah, means a lot to me that I can participate in democracy in this country.”

Her post on the website Reddit has drawn a litany of positive comments, such as “This is so beautiful in so many ways,” and “Kickass run there!  My ballot is marked, sealed, signed and ready to take to City Hall tomorrow.”

Though her race was canceled, she hopes her effort motivates others to participate in all the other races on the ballot.

“It took a lot of effort for me to run 26 miles and map this whole course out. I think if it convinces at least one person to go out and vote and practice their right to vote then this would've all been worth it,” said Hou.

Without the pandemic canceling the race, she says she would have never thought of doing something like this.

She also says she plans to run the Chicago marathon next year, assuming it’s not virtual again.