Long-distance runners perhaps best understand how the phrase “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” reflects the endurance and persistence needed to overcome challenges. But even the least athletic must feel encouraged by the latest signs that Hong Kong is returning to pre-pandemic normality. Organisers of the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon have announced that an additional 12,000 people will be allowed to run in the showpiece event’s 25th edition in February. The quota now stands at 37,000, lower than the 74,000 welcomed before the pandemic, but more than the initial plans had allowed. Covid-19 restrictions forced cancellations of the annual marathon in 2020 and again this year. The last edition was in October 2021, with a 75 per cent smaller field and no overseas competitors. The coming race will welcome twice as many runners as last year. One of the most eagerly anticipated sporting events on the local calendar, the marathon draws thousands of people of varying ages and abilities. Some race for fun in costumes while others are world-class athletes focused on winning. The course goes through the heart of the city providing a spectacular showcase of Hong Kong’s skyline. The last marathon was held just before a fifth wave of cases put the city on a long path of frequently changing pandemic restrictions. Organisers cancelled this year’s marathon planned for last month. They said that after negotiating with the government since June, and having to adapt plans as requirements changed, they were left with insufficient time to prepare. Lo puts Hong Kong Marathon women’s 10k PB down to coffee Conditions have now dramatically improved, with restrictions on arrivals to the city eased and use of the “Leave Home Safe” app suspended. The sporting calendar is also picking up the pace, with major tennis, rugby and cricket events in the coming months. A half-marathon is being planned across the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge in 2023. After a four-year absence, thousands are expected to ride this Sunday in the Sun Hung Kai Properties Hong Kong Cyclothon co-organised by the Tourism Board. After years of pandemic cancellations, delays and restrictions, it is thrilling to see Hong Kong again putting its best foot forward as a world-class city.