Running in Dubai: Sadomasochism for the Rich?

photography, consumerism, running, sports, carbon footprint, energyEarlier this year I got up before dawn one morning to photograph the Dubai marathon and 10k race. It was a foggy morning which added to the surreal spectacle of thousands of people putting themselves, voluntarily, through the trials of the long distance run.

What motivated me to photograph the event was the long-held suspicion that long distance running for pleasure (or pain) is a highly decadent activity in terms of energy consumption.

Imagine the calories consumed, not only prior to the marathon itself but also in the many miles of training that make the final run possible. If everyone on the planet started pleasure-running, the consequences for global food production would be terrifying.

But the reality is that it requires a certain, some might say extraordinary, level of affluence before one can consider using valuable food energy for such purposes.

The pleasure of running is usually explained by the release of endorphins, the hormone that counters pain, which seems to suggest, as I have always suspected, that running is a form of sadomasochism.

But, of course, many also use running as a method of weight-control and physical conditioning, necessitated by modern inactive lifestyles and excessive food and drink consumption.

Personally I prefer swimming, but maybe we should all explore more constructive ways of keeping in shape. Vegetable gardening?

Note from the editor: this photograph is part of a series called “Consumption” that seeks to document consumerism’s impact on the environment. From resource extraction and commodity production all the way down the supply chain to retail stores and waste processing facilities, Richard artfully examines what nature has come to mean in a world that depends on buying stuff.

About Richard Allenby Pratt

Richard is a British photographer living and working in Dubai, UAE. His concerns about the sustainability of the way we live and our economic systems only really became urgent after the birth of his son in 2008. As a landscape photographer he found the obvious way to express these concerns was by making photographs of the places impacted on by human activity, and particularly those places that best display the terrifying scale of our consumption. His basic method is to study google earth and then visit the most intriguing and inexplicable places thereby discovered.

One thought on “Running in Dubai: Sadomasochism for the Rich?

  1. JTR

    I suppose you’re right in the sense that such running reassures their belief they can “go the distance” politically, economically, socially and scientifically; “the distance” imagined as unlimited, which of course is absurd since the Earth is definitely not growing to accomodate their relentless growth agendas. So off they go into outer space searching for other good planets to conquer and devour, exactly like a malignant cancer.


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