How I stopped worrying and learned to love race photos

13 Apr

Horrible race photos.  We’ve all been there.

Probably my worst -- and most comical -- race photo ever, at the Lawyers Have Heart 10K in 2009. Gimpy leg much?

Anyone who has run a good amount of races has inevitably felt the excitement of seeing race photos displaced by the disappointment of actually seeing the results.

Don’t think you’re alone.  Every single person I know who runs has complained about his or her lack of photogenic appearance in race photos.

I still have entire email threads between friends complaining about the latest round of torture.

After viewing a particular cruel round of photos from the GW Parkway Classic in 2009, my friend MJ reflected on one of her photos with this gem:  “Do I really run like this?  I look like I’m doing some weird toe thing…I look demented in most of these pictures.”

Is the earth tilting? No, that's just MJ running the GW Parkway Classic.

I responded to a photo of mine from the same race with, “What the fuck am I doing here?”

What the fuck, indeed.

Many of us don’t even like to look at our race photos anymore.  Emails from Brightroom, MarathonFoto, or ASI Photos now go unviewed since there will not, of course, be even ONE good photo for us to possibly even consider purchasing.

We often wonder why the photographer couldn’t takle flattering photos of us.

But the reason is simple.  And almost never the photographer’s fault.

"Oh, hi! I'm just here, running, punching the air for no reason. What?"

We don’t photograph well in races because we’re running.

Misplaced limbs, jiggling skin, faces contorted in nearly unrecognizable ways.

Race photos not only don’t capture our good sides, they render us looking like sweaty beasts who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In addition, most race photographers set up at the end of a course where they hope to get better shots thanks to a (hopefully)  thinned-out crowd.

But the end of a race is where we especially look the most tired, the sweatiest, and where our running form has broken apart the most.

So what’s the answer?

Epod speed-walking past a couple of perverts

To keep running and hope we get a good race photo once in a while?  No.

The answer is to try to look as awful as possible…on purpose.

Don’t smile.  Don’t pose.  Don’t pretend you’re at a Sears glamour shots studio.

This isn’t your prom or your wedding.  You are running, and an object in motion not only tends to stay in motion, it also tends to look awful doing so.

So the next time you’re racing and you see those blue-vested photographers, do the opposite.

Swing those limbs around like you’re losing at tetherball.

Where was I looking? And why is that kid so close to beating me (at the Jingle All the Way 10K in 2009)?

Strain your face like you just swallowed a whole pack of lemon drops.

Turn the race photos into a contest and try to look as ugly as possible.

Try being silly and jump in the air.  Ironically pint your fingers at the camera like I attempted to do at the NYRR Manhattan Half Marathon in January.  Make a face at the photographer.

Because the alternative is to try to look good.

And I’ve seen all your race photos.  Trust me, it’s not going to happen.

9 Responses to “How I stopped worrying and learned to love race photos”

  1. Epod April 13, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    “Don’t pretend you’re at a Sears glamour shots studio.” At least then I’d have a sparkly jacket to spice up the photo.

    Also, this is why you invite parents to races; they take much better photos because they’re only focusing on you.

  2. Hats April 13, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    Mine from the half I did last year were… unflattering to say the least. Maybe I should just try to smile the whole way round? Haha.

  3. Heather C April 13, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

    I actually had my favorite race photo at the LHH 10K – I was sprinting and looking super badass (as usual). THe only weird thing was that it was tilted sideways – see, sometimes it IS the photographer’s fault (unless I was running with a swagger? Possible.).

    In any case, I can behind this movement. My National photos weren’t great (Don’t Do This Tip: wear your bib on your leg. They can’t see it, and therefore think there are no photos of you). I’ll even try to look bad for D’s photos, which I know he’ll appreciate as he stands there and waits for me to run by looking like a fool.

    • DC Runographer April 13, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

      I remember that LHH photo, you totally looked like The Flash.

      Good tip about the bib but I hate ripping at it when it’s on my chest.

      • Heather C April 13, 2011 at 3:49 pm #

        I hear ya – I still wore it on my leg for the Platte River Half. If I plan on shedding layers, there’s no chancing it. Plus D was there – better photos from him, anyway!

  4. fatDZ April 15, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    My photos turn out so-so most of the time, coz by the time I almost ended, the sun is so hot that I had to shrink my eyes, and I was totally wrecked even when walking at the end!

  5. Fit Chick Britt April 17, 2011 at 9:51 pm #

    I always have the WORST race photos. I’ve given up hope on trying to get a good one.

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