From Dubai's Love Lakes to Burj Khalifa, marathoner runs 104km barefoot for greener tomorrow

Aakash Nambiar strives to continue the momentum created by COP28 with his marathon covering deserts, beaches, and city areas of the emirate

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Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Mon 18 Dec 2023, 1:33 PM

Last updated: Mon 18 Dec 2023, 11:04 PM

A 34-year-old Indian ultra-marathoner and green campaigner has run 104km in 17 hours and 20 minutes covering key landmarks across Dubai in an initiative aimed as a step forward following COP28.

Aakash Nambiar, a Bengaluru-based Keralite, strived to continue the momentum created by COP28 with his marathon covering deserts, beaches, and city areas of Dubai, where he met community members and discussed how they could make a difference in climate change.

“I feel alive when I run on streets and meet people. It’s a great way to spread the message I wish to convey on environmental conservation. I planned this run after COP28 to take forward the message of reducing emissions and saving this planet for our generations. We only have one Earth. I am trying to promote the message of the leadership from the UAE, India, and other heads of state who made the UN Climate Conference a success. Our leaders have done their job, and now it’s our turn to take small actions,” Aakash told Khaleej Times.

Popularly called the ‘Barefoot Mallu’ for his unique way of running without any shoes, Aakash started from the scenic Love Lake in Al Qudra at 6.40am on Saturday and covered landmarks like Palm Jumeirah, Burj Al Arab, Etihad Museum to finish in front of the iconic Burj Khalifa by midnight.

“The route was flat, and the weather was manageable despite the hot temperature in the afternoon. There were a lot of people who knew about my run through my social media posts. While at Kite Beach, Jumeirah Beach, and La Mer Beach, there was one full stretch on the beach when people joined my run,” he said about his initiative supported by AMSA Healthcare – dialysis, and renal care providers based in Dubai.

Aakash was amazed by the friendly people and the world-class facilities for pedestrians and runners.

“There are dedicated lanes and short and long tracks to run in parks and beaches. The people I met were friendly and curious, and I had an amazing conversation on environmental preservation and the UAE’s net zero efforts. We exchanged views on how people can contribute individually. How to reduce, recycle and reuse. A simple initiative is carrying a steel water bottle to refill rather than buying a plastic bottle every time. Reducing food waste is another climate action to reduce emissions.”

Aakash met a group of cyclists, who were impressed by his efforts to create awareness of sustainable practices. “Most of them hailed from European nations. They were curious to know why I was going around the city barefoot. We spoke about the importance of a carbon-free world and pledging to go green.”

New to Dubai, Aakash used Google Maps for navigation and at times found himself on certain main roads and expressways, which couldn’t be crossed on foot. “My friends and support vehicle were far ahead as they were on the road and driving at a minimum speed. So, navigation was an unexpected challenge. I wish for pedestrian walkways on highways and main roads. Walking isn’t just a workout but you are contributing personally to reducing carbon emissions. A walking city is a healthier one.”

This was not his first marathon in the UAE, as in 2020 he ran from Abu Dhabi to Dubai during the pandemic to promote a healthy lifestyle.

“I ran three years back to create awareness about health and wellbeing,” said Aakash, who ran similar marathon campaigns in Sri Lanka, Spain, Portugal, and various parts of India from Himalayan mountain passes to deserts in Rajasthan to the northeast. Last year, he took part in a mini marathon to promote fitness and tourism season in Kashmir.

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