As I was trying to figure out how to "customize" this blog (I think I need help from my brother, so expect a call, Chris), I was going through my pictures and looking at the different ways people react to a camera during a run. There are usually tons of people snapping pictures of the runners, whether official event photographers, people out to cheer on their family/friends, or just random spectators. I've noticed, depending on the type of runner, the response to the photographers vary.
For instance, consider the fast runners, aka the "elites". These runners, they just want to win, or break a record, or win in their age group. They usually ignore the photographers, or don't see them because they are running way too fast. They also generally look amazing in their photos. Elites look like gazelles, their muscles are rippling, they barely look like they are sweating. The facial expression on these runners is usually one of determination and valor. They have their eyes on the prize.
Elites. (All photos credit C. Livingston except my selfie)
Then, there are the rest of the runners, the other eleventy thousand, who are not going to win, or set a record, or even come close to winning. In this group, I would say there are two categories of runners. The first is what I think of as Serious Runners. They look serious, act serious, and running is a very serious activity for them. These are the people who run before the race to warm up, or maybe run the whole race in the opposite direction to the starting line to warm up. They ignore the camera because they are way too Serious about Running to bother with silly things like how they look while Running Seriously. I know I am poking fun at them a little, but I have the utmost respect for them and their ability to be as dedicated as they are. They train hard, race harder, set goals and achieve them. They push themselves and race against the clock.
However, I obviously do not belong to that group. I can't be serious enough to belong to the Serious Runners. They would never have me. I belong to the second subset of this group, which I will call Non-Serious-Runners (NSRs). I, like most of the people in this group, do not want to run before the race--there will be enough running during the race, thank you very much. I put on headphones and dance while I am waiting for the start. I have to stop to drink because if I try to drink out of a cup while running I choke. I try to find a garbage pail to toss my empty cup into, rather than drop it on the ground like a Serious Runner. I sometimes sing words/phrases to songs on my ipod aloud as I am running, which may scare/startle/annoy people. I will scream when I see people I know, whether they recognize me or not. I like to acknowledge the people who are there cheering the runners on. For instance, in some of the local races I've done, I like to give little kids high fives, run through the sprinklers that people in the neighborhood have going in the summer races, and occasionally give the "woo hoo" to groups of spectators. In my first half marathon in Philadelphia, I high-fived a bunch of drag queens, waved at anyone who was waving as I went by (probably at their friend who was running next to me) and "woo-hooed" at people who were cheering or ringing cow bells or holding up silly signs. I find that it gives me a huge lift of energy and makes me forget about the fact that I still have 7 miles, 2 miles, or 0.5 miles to go. And if I lose time on my run while I give little kids high-fives, who really cares? Not me, I am a NSR! I am happy, the little kids are happy, the cheerers/sprinkler-spritzers/silly-sign-holders all know they are doing something that is helping me, and are well-appreciated.
Now, that brings me back to my original thoughts on photographs. Since I am not a Serious Runner, I am one of those people who notice the photographers. And, I am vain enough to want to look good in a photograph so I can buy it and give it to my parents so they can display it on their mantel. Not being married or having kids, having graduated too many years ago to comfortably count, and not going to win the Nobel Prize (at least not this year), I would like them to have a picture or two of me doing something and looking cool while doing it.
So, how does one look cool in these race photos? Some people flash the peace/victory sign. This is cool. Some people give a wave, but not like they are trying to achieve lift off or have just spotted the radio station award van. They are chill.
I have been in enough "official" race photographs to know I have to really work in order to look good. I am not a pretty runner. My face turns all shades of pink and red . My muscles do not ripple. The look on my face is more like desperation than determination. I have had more than one picture where I look like I am about to lie down on the ground and die. If I am feeling good, I might give the "two thumbs up" sign which is dorky, not cool, or a huge, toothy, Jim Carey-like grin which makes me look insane. In three out of four of the most recent set of race photos, my eyes are closed. However, I am smiling, which means I had a fun enough race to actually have enough wherewithal that I wanted to look decent in a finish photo. So I guess that is progress.
What is your suggestion for taking a good race photograph?