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Saudi Arabia’s Female Olympian Fuses Art & Athletics

The half-Saudi Sarah Attar shows how two passions can fuel each other.

Sarah Attar made headlines in 2012 as the first Saudi female track and race athlete to compete in the Olympics, where she vied for the 800-metre race. The half-American runner, who joined one of the other first Saudi women to participate in the mega multi-sport event, judoka Wojdan Shaherkani, also took part in the marathon at the 2016 Olympics held in Rio de Janeiro. However, both those times, Attar, who has lived in the US her whole life, went under special invitation from the International Olympic Committee. So for the past few years, the go-getter has been motivated to make it to the (now postponed) 2020 Olympic marathon for achieving the standard Olympic qualifying times. And while racing against the clock to be the first Saudi woman to actually qualify, it’s been her creative pursuits, mainly landscape photography, that have been helping to fuel her days more effectively. Conversely, her running always helps take her artistic talents to new heights.

Attar took up marathoning around the same time she was studying Studio Arts at California’s Pepperdine University, “The passions for those two developed in sync and have always felt connected,” the Escondido-raised highflier , who usually visits Saudi regularly to see relatives, said in an interview with Tracksmith.

Now based in Mammoth Lakes, where she can train full-time with distance runners, Attar also said running allows her to get more engrossed with the land and movement.

“Runs are beautiful meditations on the landscape, and my creative work is connected to that,” the Rex Hamilton Memorial Art Scholarship winner told the independent running brand. “Being able to run in beautiful areas inspires me both athletically and creatively. My senior thesis actually melded art and athletics: observing our literal and figurative traces on landscapes. There’s a lot I think on when I’m running, that ultimately influences what I am working on creatively, and vice versa.”

The inspirational driving force, who also happens to be a writer, bio resonance therapy practitioner and nutritionist, fell in love with long runs as she started training herself for marathons while at college. Attar, who considers taking part in the Big Sur and Boston marathons as some of her most memorable moments, has certainly found the perfect balance and shows how fusing two passions can help reap great benefits. 

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