I had just returned home from my 47th training run late In January when the text came in from a friend : ''Marathon cancelled.''

Cancellations was also something we had become resigned in recent months, in a city where almost every public event had been postponed or canceled because of antigovernment protests.

Coronavirus was simply the latest reason.

But I was still crushed In the runners' WhatsApp groups I had joined, more seasoned athletes were sanguine. ''Run more races and will understand these things will happen........,''

Japanese marathons get called off four hours before the run'' because of weather, consoled the another. But this was my first marathon, I wanted to write back.

Very quickly, though, I decided I was going to run the distance anyway.

I had already built up to  20 miles in training, and i wanted to know what it  felt like to run the venerated 26.2    I wanted  to  make it worthwhile for all the friends and colleagues who had donated to to the mental health charity I was supporting, Mind Hong Kong.

I also determined that it was relatively safe. At the time the marathon was canceled, there were five confirmed cases in the city, and by the event's scheduled date, there were 36. But people here are not required to be under quarantine unless they have recently visited virus hot spots.

Despite the uncertainty about how the virus spreads and the advice from Hong Kong's Center for Health Protection to ''stay at home as far as possible,'' there are still a lot of people

I cobbled together my own messy 26.2 mile course to create my marathon, using the GPS running app. Strava.

The race day dawned.  It was cold by Hong Kong standards, at 50 degrees F [10 degrees Celsius] but dry, perfect conditions for running.

The three of us started our run to a gong, not a starting gun. And while I didn't have an official race T-shirt, I had my own unofficial version designed by Mind Hong Kong, and a hand-drawn bib that read ''Please cheer.''

I wore a surgical mask on the walk to our  our made-up starting line in Golden Beautiful Square, but ditched it once we set off.

There was never any question of wearing a mask while I was running : They create a lot of  stifling cocoon around your mouth and nose and makes it uncomfortable to breathe, even when walking.

My friend and I finished our marathon together and were draped not with shiny medallions but with shortbread cookie medals that our friend had baked and tied on ribbons.

And although our phone batteries died along the way, making it hard to tell if we had actually run slightly over or under 26.2 miles, it felt like a real marathon : painful, seemingly endless and exhilarating, in equal measure.

The World Students Society admires and thanks author Olivia Parker, editor International Edition of  The New York Times, Hong Kong.


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