Earlier 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.