SMILE AND SAY “CHEESY!”
An e-mail showed up in my inbox today that simultaneously filled me with excitement and dread.
“Race photos are ready for your review.”
NOTE: I’m not talking about the millions of smartphone pics and selfies snapped pre/during/post race by runners that will end up as Facebook or Instagram posts. That is a blog for another day. Today, I’m talking about the photos taken by the “pros.”
I ran the New Year’s Race half marathon on Saturday and the fine folks at Marathon Foto (one of the main race photo services) were on hand, snapping away like there was no tomorrow. And now those Kodak moments were primed for my perusal.
You see, deep down everyone wants a formal memento of their race experience. This is something you trained weeks or even months for and that moment is finally happening. How cool would it be to have a professional image of your accomplishment captured and framed for all to see… that iconic pose of you running triumphantly along the street and displaying perfect racing form.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? And it is, in theory.
Unfortunately, actual race photos are sort of like the ones at Disneyland where they snap your picture mid-scream as you plummet down Splash Mountain. A quick flash of light and you know that your expression of terror has been forever frozen in time. After the ride you see that photo displayed on a monitor, laugh with friends at how idiotic you look and decide if you want to purchase it for $20 as a gag.
Yes, race pictures are kind of like that. Actually it’s usually far far worse.
Not to discredit race photographers, but they are all about quantity in lieu of quality. It’s a tough gig. They snap away like madmen, taking photos for thousands (or potentially tens of thousands) of runners. As long as the lens cap is off and the runner’s bib number is visible in frame, then mission accomplished.
With that knowledge in mind, I reluctantly clicked yet again on the Marathon Foto website and selected my name and race. My computer paused momentarily as it loaded the proof page, as if to say “Are you sure you want to do this? You know this most likely won’t end well.”
And then, there they are.
Approximately twenty thumbnails from my race, each image covered with huge orange lettering reading “PROOF,” “COPYRIGHTED IMAGE” or “POST UNDER PENALTY OF DEATH.”
Funny thing is if you arrange the thumbnails in the proper order, you’ve got a timeline of your entire race.
“Hey, there I am before the race with friends, looking excited.”
“That’s me at at mile 5, breathing harder than I expected, but still hopeful.”
“Mile 9… $%&@*#!”
Hell, if you look hard enough you can almost see the exact instant where your race goal changes from “I’m going to PR” to “Oh dear God, please don’t let me die at mile 11.”
As I mentally grade the various snapshots, my opinions range from “Not very flattering” to “Too goofy” to “Who the hell is that freak and how did he get my bib number?” Not to mention that the awesome race form I thought I was showing off actually looks more like a spastic Clydesdale in its death throes.
If a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, then most of my words would be laced with profanity.
And don’t forget, all of these wonderful memories are yours to download for a mere $24.95 a pop, plus tax. But don’t worry, you get a discount for multiple copies. And you can use always that image of your eyes bulging out of your head and look of utter desperation for next year’s Christmas card.
Let me run and grab my credit card!
Okay, I kid. My race photos aren’t always that bad, but I’ve seen some that make me wonder if I didn’t get stuck somewhere in the evolutionary chain and here’s photographic proof that I’m the missing link.
But like a glutton for punishment, I keep checking the photos. Why? Because every once in a while you find that diamond in the rough.
And last October I found that gem. It was a shot of myself from the LA Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. I had dropped almost 50 pounds since July and here was the photographic proof of my hard work. It was mile 10 of the race and I was giving the “thumbs up” and sporting an ear-to-ear grin. It will go down as one of my all-time favorite pictures of myself (my sincere thanks to the photographer who snapped it).
And so I’ll continue to torment myself with this pictorial rite of passage for each race, knowing that eventually I may come across another photo worthy of my download dollars, plus tax. But until then, I’ll just keep running, saying “cheese” and enjoy the freakshow.
P.S.- I do keep a screen grab of every race photo (thank you Mac for your “Command + shift +4”) and file it away… just in case I ever need a good laugh.
(Tell me about your funniest or scariest race photos).