Benjamin Li is an oncology doctor who is always on his feet whether it’s in the office or on the road. Read more about his experience with running and how it helps him take care of himself.


“You have to be able to take care of yourself before you can take care of others.” This is a mantra that has stuck with me throughout my medical training. How can you, as a doctor, provide the best service to your patients if you are not investing the effort to be the best version of yourself? The analogy is similar to the low-oxygen warnings we always saw on airplanes (back when travel was a thing): put an oxygen mask on yourself and then put masks on those in need around you. To me, running is my source of oxygen, of balance, and strength.

My decision to become a doctor was intertwined with my ability and passion for running. I began running in high school and fell in love with the vast world it opened up to me. Nature, places that no car or bike could take you. Hard work and reward, more satisfying than any amount of natural ability could offer. And camaraderie, the undefeatable bond of shared suffering and sweet victory. Running added dimensions to life that I hadn’t realized existed, and somehow filled me with ambition, purpose, and the conviction to follow my dreams.


However, there are two sides to the coin, and with great joy also comes great sadness at time. As any runner can tell you, one of the hardest things to face is… not being able to run. It is much, much worse than the state of life before running existed, because having tasted the glory, now each day has an opportunity cost when a run is lost.

When someone is down, there is a special opportunity to help them back on their feet. In high school, I was lifted up by selfless and passionate physical therapists (one clinic offering free service for high schoolers before official open hours). Through my experiences, I learned how to treat and manage my over-use injuries, and to help others with similar ailments. Fast forward a few years, and I realized that, whether or not related to running, everyone experiences their own “injuries” in life.


Medicine and running gives you an interesting perspective. You get a glimpse of some of the most personal emotions and raw truths in settings of adversity. Day after day, as a radiation oncology resident, I witness stories of cancer from different aspect of societies. Ranging from the happiness and gratitude of being alive and present for their grand-children to the despair of realizing that life will forever be different and that what once was a self-defining trait (e.g. always being available to help others) is now reversed (e.g. always needing help from others). To those moments where you come to peace with the uncertainties that lie ahead and revel in the certainties of love that exist around you. Everyone has their injuries, and it is incredibly rewarding to help people get back on their feet and able to feel good about the path forward.


HOKA ONE ONE. Not only are their shoes awesome, but they really help me to be my best version of myself each day. Being able to run light, to run freely, and to run protected from the wear-and-tear of San Francisco down-hill roads, my Hoka support maintains running as a refuge. Whether I pop on my RINCONs for a fast workout to push my limits and humble myself, or wear my BONDI 7s into work for a chance to recover while standing all day on my feet, my shoe companions really do double duty. These times are easy to lose motivation, to lose connection, and to lose hope. But anchoring on what I know makes me happy, makes me the best version of myself, and lets me most fully share joy and positivity in my work… running is helping me take care of me so I can take care of others.


Benjamin is featured wearing the Bondi 7