The Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon, which started in 1997 with a humble 1,000 runners, has grown into a running festival for the city, with 73,000 racers expected to take part next year. To celebrate the city's passion for the sport, we'll be featuring one inspirational local runner each week until the race on February 16.
Lucia Lai always dreamed of encouraging others to live a better life. Growing up, she planned to become a psychologist, but life took a different turn two years ago when a she was hit by a car, tragically losing her right leg.
The irrepressibly positive Lai took her challenging circumstance in her new stride. Fitted with a prosthetic leg, she threw herself into a variety of different sports, finally settling on running.
Through running, the 22-year-old student has found a new path to achieving her goal. She ran the 10 kilometre event at this year's Hong Kong Marathon for the first time on her new leg with overwhelming public support.
Lai is returning to the course next year to better her time of one hour 29 minutes, and says she's more determined than ever to encourage others to live a more positive life.
I was active growing up, but I didn't really run a lot before my accident. After I was finally discharged from hospital and had completely recovered, I felt bored and wanted to change my situation. So I tried many different exercises including dancing, cycling and climbing.
I thought to myself, why not try running? So I asked my prosthetic technician to make me a running prosthesis. I started running in my neighbourhood in Tsing Yi. I found running, despite my ability, the perfect way to inspire others. Running the 10 kilometre race at the Hong Kong Marathon next year is also a way to thank everyone involved in my rehabilitation for their care and effort in supporting me.
Because my running prosthesis has no toe, my leg runs basically on a spring, like elastic. When I started running I found that my centre of gravity was over my left leg and my two feet were very unco-ordinated.
In the beginning, putting on the running prosthesis was very painful. I thought of giving up. But I always believe I need to do better; I need to be strong for my friends and parents who have supported me.
When I'm going through tough times I recite to myself the lyrics from a J.Arie song called First Choice: "How many times have you thought of giving up. How many times have you ignored the pain? If you can fight, fight 'til the end."
Running makes me healthier. After a run, my mind is more focused and I feel more organised. I run three times a week. My family has also started to join me on my runs. Being able to enjoy a run together makes me very happy.
Because of running, I have a better understanding of what I want to achieve in life. Without running - and, of course, thanks to my prosthetic technician for giving me a running leg - I couldn't have gained support from the public.
If I didn't run, I wouldn't have discovered that running could have such a positive influence. I also wouldn't have had the chance to share my positive energy with the Hong Kong public so quickly and broadly. Before running, I didn't know I could achieve so many things; I have become tougher and braver.