The runner Nahila Hernández San Juan – born in Russia, with Cuban roots and Mexican nationality, and resident of Chile – was all smiles when she began the Badwater Ultramarathon in July 2013.
Some 30 hours later (she would finish the world’s toughest footrace in 36 hours, 17 minutes, 13 seconds), as she prepared for the final 5-mile segment up Mt. Whitney Portal Road, the smiles disappeared.
The then-39-year-old decorated runner, who had started running five years earlier to get back in shape after giving birth to her second daughter, sent out a crew member to ask me to stop taking photos.
Why do I bring this up?
Well, it’s not to cast a bad light on a super athlete who has run ultras in the Sahara, Gobi and Atacama (Chile) deserts as well as a multi-day ultra in Antarctica. I remain a Facebook friend of her and a couple of her crew members. Today, we all laugh about that encounter.
It’s to spotlight the relationship between race photographers and runners. I’ve participated as a photographer and runner in enough races develop a do’s and don’ts list so that you can guarantee the best race photos.
1. Maintain a smile at all times. You never know where a photographer might pop up!
2. Make sure your bib number is visible! Too often, runners will pin their bib on their back, cover it with a jacket or belt, or roll it up. If you place your bib on the side, remember that the photographer might be positioned on the opposite side. It can be slightly embarrassing for a male photographer to shoot a female runner from behind because that’s where her bib is located.
3. If you are running in a pack, unless you’re the leader, it will be difficult to spot you. If you’re running in a group, please run abreast of each other if possible. When you approach the finish line, either speed up or slow down if there is a pack of runners ahead of you so that you are clearly identifiable.
4. If you see a photographer using a long lens, don’t run right up to him and pose because the long lens is being used for distance shots. You might also make the photographer miss other runners.
5. If you’re going to try to stand out from everyone else at the finish line by leaping, make sure your legs don’t cramp up. (This happened to a 50k trail run a couple of years ago to a runner about 10 yards from the finish! Yes, it was a embarrassing).
My personal pet peeve? When a runner yells my name as they run by and expect a photo. In some instances, I’ll chase the runner and try to get ahead for the shot. This can be pretty tiring.
Are today’s runners too pampered?
That’s an interesting question.
The easy answer: Definitely yes!
In the old days B.C. (before computers), you would mail in your entry and a check for the fee. Unless it was a major race, you would have to show up early on race day to pick up your racing bib.
You also got:
▪ Tech shirts? Nope, cotton T-shirts.
▪ Race-day photos? No! Bigger races like the San Francisco Marathon would have their official photographer mail you a tiny copy of your photo that you would then have to order.
▪ Same-day complete results? No way. Some races would put together a brochure with photos and times that you’d get in the mail about 2-3 weeks later.
▪ Medals? Not all races gave medals to all finishers the way most races do today. You could wind up with ribbons and certificates, except for the SF Marathon, the California International Marathon and a few other races. Plus, the medals were simple, nothing like today’s medals that made Flavor Flav’s clocks look like miniature watches.
▪ Swag? Not much by today’s standards.
▪ Real-time tracking? Forget about it. Organizers crossed their fingers that no one was reported missing!
There you have it: Today’s runners are pampered.
▪ The Fresno Valentine Run, a 5K and 2-mile event, will be held near the Shinzen Gardens at Woodward Park on Feb. 11. Details: https://runsignup.com/Race/CA/Fresno/FresnoValentineDayRun?aflt_token=HrZcYWJT57TH3GH4vWg7QL584fEmdOnK&r=Y
▪ The Valley Runner of the Year series kicks off with the 30-point Chocolate Run Feb. 17 at Fresno’s Woodward Park. The 5-mile race is part of the series, but there will also be a 10- and 2-mile races. Details: https://runsignup.com/Race/CA/Fresno/ChocolateRun
▪ Hanford FFF 5K and Flapjacks, a 5-kilometer race, will take place at Hanford’s Sierra Pacific High School starting at 7:30 a.m. on Feb. 10. Details: https://runsignup.com/Race/CA/Hanford/HanfordFFA5KFlapjacks?aflt_token=HrZcYWJT57TH3GH4vWg7QL584fEmdOnK
Juan Esparza Loera is a sometime-avid runner who has run 15 marathons. Send questions, suggestions, comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org