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.
Adam Crawford has competed in many multi-day desert runs, mountain ultramarathons and a couple of road marathons. But the 47-year-old banker doesn't consider himself a runner. When your passions span a long list, including cycling, paddling and slack-lining, such labels, he thinks, are unnecessary.
Across all of his adventures, the motivations remain the same. For Crawford, it's not about the finish line, but the deep friendships forged along the way.
He recently took part in the Melbourne Marathon, where he supported his sister's fundraising efforts for pancreatic cancer research. He says it's probably his last road marathon - but he said the same the last time.
My first memory of running was cross-country in the woods while at school in England. There were notorious marshy sections that could suck a leg in thigh-deep and often claim a running shoe if one wasn't careful. The distances were not long but there was a definite sense of freedom in being able to go off by myself or with my friends.
I stopped running for a while and took up cycling. You can cover more distance each day while still retaining a connection with the country. You get rained on. Bees bounce off your forehead. The view at the top of a mountain pass in the Alps means more because you worked hard to get there. The shower at the end of each day is a little slice of nirvana. I have met some wonderful people and had some amazing times on my bike tours.
I got back into running when I signed up for the 2011 Gobi March, a multi-day race through the Gobi Desert. What attracted me was the reduction of my life to a 9kg backpack and 250 kilometres of running in a week across a part of China I would not normally see. The race opened the door to distance running and I discovered that it is much easier to start running than it is to stop. Two and a half years later, I look back on one seven-day ultramarathon; a three-day 100 kilometre race in Lijiang, China; two 100 kilometre runs; a bunch of 50 kilometre races; and two road marathons.
My greatest running lesson occurred during day four of the Gobi March. The crunch came after checkpoint two, 20 kilometres into that day's 40-kilometre stage. The cloud cover dispersed, the temperature skyrocketed and I regretted not [carrying] more water. I began to overheat massively. It was a very tough period psychologically. I faced the immediate challenge of getting to the next checkpoint without getting heatstroke, together with the daunting prospect of a further 80 kilometres of racing the next day. It was an utter low point mentally of the race. How I dealt with the situation taught me a lot about myself. The lessons I learned that day have stayed with me since.
I run because I enjoy the feeling of getting fitter, going faster and recovering more quickly. But fundamentally I run because I enjoy being outside, on the trails, doing something physical and being with my like-minded friends. It's living in the now and feeling alive.
The best running advice I've ever received is that "ultra running is 80 per cent mental and the rest is in your head" [he says as a joke]. I think it is a great experience to decide to run a marathon, set a target time and do the work to achieve that goal. There is a journey of self-discovery that happens and the lessons learned in training can be used in the broader context of your life. It becomes evident how damaging self-limiting beliefs can be. Achieving your goal is a vindication of your methods, commitment and belief.
My favourite run is any run around Tai Tam Reservoir and Mount Butler on Hong Kong Island. There is a variety of mixed terrain, the hills are challenging and the views on occasion are spectacular. It's also very close to where I live.
If I didn't run, I would go paddling instead.