Marathon race is not the place to stop and take a selfie, thank you
So prevalent is the use of smartphones and on-line sharing of photos in Hong Kong to keep a faithful record of restaurant experiences that the expression "a camera is the first to enjoy a meal" has become part of the local vernacular. It's about communicating joy, swapping likes and dislikes and showing off to friends. The habit seems odd to those not familiar with it, especially when diners eating alone pose for self-portraits with their food, but it is harmless enough. When the practise is adopted on a distance running course, though, it can be disruptive or even dangerous in the hands of the unthinking.
That was apparent at the last Standard Chartered hong Kong Marathon and its associated shorter-distance events, where the taking of selfies - as these self-portraits are called - created a stir among runners. Numerous participants suffered abrasions and bruises after colliding with people stopping in front of them on the course to take photos with their smartphones. The bank's chief executive, Benjamin Hung Pi-cheng, is concerned about the event's reputation and suggested that organisers could ban mobile phones when it is next held on February 16. With 73,000 expected to take part, 1,000 more than last time, measures clearly have to be made to ensure safety.
Keeping phones from races could prove a logistical and enforcement challenge for the organiser, the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association. With registration opening from October 15, though, now is the time to lay down rules so that runners are courteous. Given the prevalence of the complaints, much needs to be done to educate runners about marathon etiquette. Common sense is necessary - stopping abruptly to take a self-portrait is bound to cause an accident.
Most marathon runners want to finish. They are variously driven by a desire to win, perform or improve, show they have the inner strength to succeed or raise funds for charity. They want to attain a goal. But marathons are about running, and to most participants, they are a serious business. Unlike in restaurants, there is a time and place to take photos.