I never know quite how to react when I spot the race photographer, normally hunched in the verge at the side of the road, trying to look inconspicuous.
Should I try to disguise the anguish, or give him a wave or the thumbs up? Is it better to simply ignore him and ‘sail’ past? At least under everyday circumstances when a camera is brandished in my direction there is usually an object to thrust in front of it, or something to duck behind. Like many people, I’m uncomfortable in front of the camera and not naturally photogenic, yet will go along with this ritual of capturing and preserving the special, and the more mundane, life events.
Before I started running I would have never considered printing, yet alone having blown up, framed and adorning the hallway for every visitor to see, a picture of me wearing tiny shorts, looking puffy, strained and dishevelled, captured mid way through my first marathon.
Needless to say, even at my best, I do not look like I’ve just stepped straight from the front cover of a glossy fitness magazine. I will never forget my husband’s observation after the first time he saw me race. With no attempt to disguise the surprise in his voice, he proclaimed “wow you beat a lot of people who look much fitter than you”. Interpret that as you will!
Yet that picture of me mid-race is one of my proudest moments, in life not just in running. Other people may simply see my blotchy red thighs and unsightly tan lines barely covered by my fluorescent yellow shorts; the frown, flailing arms and unsightly kitchen towels poking out of my pocket. A graceful runner I am not. When I look at that photograph, I’m reminded of all the things that grimace represents; insomnia caused by anticipation, or dread, of the next training run; the hours spent watching YouTube videos trying to get the sports injury taping right (and wondering why is it always bright blue?!); the battle to fight the fatigue and maintain pace; the determination to fend off a challenger; the joy and relief as you cross the line; the seemingly unfathomable why?
So I now I see the photographer as an integral part of the experience, grateful that they have taken the time to capture what is, in hindsight, such a wonderfully emotional experience that you have to be a runner to understand. Yet I still haven’t quite mastered the art of smiling through it.
Melanie has been running regularly for the past five years and describes herself as a "middle of the pack" runner. Her mission is to inspire or nag her family and friends to take up running. Articles like this are a great way to start Melanie!
by Melanie Fisher