I distinctly remember crossing the line of the Great Wall Marathon and proclaiming to the medal-giving marshal "that was lovely but never again". I knew at the time it was a complete lie. It wasn't lovely at all.
A few months later I nixed the whole sentence by standing on a running machine in Xujiahui and agreeing with an inspirationally-quick friend to register for "Asia's Toughest Marathon" in Hong Kong.
Oh joy. The familiar feeling of saying "I would... but I've a marathon to do", getting up and running in the worst conditions possible to keep the guilt at bay, knowing that doing enough training will never happen and then spending the last week cramming like a poorly-disciplined high-school student.
All so that we can get up in the dark of the morning, shove porridge in our beaks, stretch like there's no tomorrow and join ten thousand like-minded individuals attempting to run 42k and hopefully, just maybe, cure that itch that got us here in the first place.
And we're off - down Nathan road, around a couple corners and hitting a long straight heading north-west across Kowloon. These are the best moments of the Marathon; surrounded by runners, soaking in the novelty and hearing the gently pounding rhythm of feet every track-change on the playlist. The Asics SP3s are feeling sublime.
5km are over before too long and the field is starting to stretch out. This normally marks another highlight of finding a groove and settling down but in Hong Kong the road curves around and an obnoxiously large Stonecutter's Bridge swings into view. Looming on the horizon we're unavoidably connected to it by this stretch of highway which will wind us around to the approach, up the energy sapping on-ramp and across the breathtakingly high span above the container-ship dominated scenery.
This is the Hong Kong Marathon; lengths of sweeping expressway undulating over three massive bridges, through a handful of tunnels (including a kilometer or two from Kowloon to Sheung Wan) and culminating in a number of leg-destroying quick rises and falls along the elevated-road through Central and Causeway Bay.
My iPod got stuck at 30km and played the first 20 seconds of Eminem w/Rihanna on loop for the next hour. At 38km cramp replaced my legs with broom handles. That's probably why, 3h55 after setting out and in 234th place I hobbled across the finishing line with a twitch and declared to the medal-giving marshal "leave me alone".
At 4h50 Alex finished and after counting our blisters we agreed never again. I had my fingers crossed behind my back - I need to finish a marathon cramp-free to really cure the itch.