We’ve all been there. A few days after a race, the official race photo notification arrives in our inbox, and we get a little anxious to see what awaits us. Upon seeing the photos, we cringe at how we look as we battle through pain and fatigue on our way to the finish line. We quickly close the browser window, or even click on the “this is not me” button, for fear that someone else might stumble upon these wretched photographs.
It doesn’t have to be that way! There are several approaches you can take to loving (or at least not hating) your race photos.
Prepare, and be aware.
Simply being aware of the race photographers can go a long way. Knowing that you are being photographed gives you some amount of control over how you will look. Do you want to have a big smile? Do you want to wave? Do you want to make a silly pose? Or do you put your serious game face on because you want to look tough? Make a decision beforehand, and stick with it. Even if your race isn’t going well, smiling for the photographer can actually give you a mental boost and lift your spirits.
Most large races have professional photographers along the course, and even some local races have photographers at the finish line. It isn’t always possible to spot the photographers because your primary focus is running–not posing for the camera. But when you do see a photographer kneeled down along the course, that’s your cue to smile, wave, look tough, or do whatever you decided to do before the race.
The Finish Line
If you’re running in a large race, the finish line is almost guaranteed to have race photographers. The most important thing to remember about your finish line photo is to wait until you’re well beyond the finish line to stop the GPS watch. Yes, it’s hard to be patient to wait for that official time and you want your GPS data to be as accurate as possible. But waiting just 2-3 extra seconds after crossing to stop your watch will give you a better shot at a victorious finish line photo, instead of one where you’re looking down to press a button.
I’ve seen finish line photos of runners with their arms up that look amazing. They look so energized and excited to be crossing the finish line. I tried that approach one time, and I looked like a cheerleader making a high V pose. Lesson learned: the arms-up look is not for me. The finish line photo will be a matter of trial and error, and the safest approach is to run strong, stay focused, and don’t hit your Garmin until well after you’ve crossed. Trying to do something else could be hit or miss.
Have a friend take the photos.
If you’re lucky enough to have someone cheer for you at the race, have that person be your race photographer. Most
smartphones have a “burst” feature which allows you to capture 10 frames per second. Using the burst feature, your friend could end up with 30+ photos of you as you run by him or her. Voila: you now have 30 photos to choose from as opposed to just one or two. You can immediately delete the photos that you hate, and they will never see the light of day.
Another benefit of having a friend take your photos is that a side angle is often more flattering than a head-on angle. With the burst feature, you’ll be able to take a close look at your running stride and pinpoint areas that you’d like to work on.
Take pride in the pain.
Good race photos are difficult to come by because racing hurts. If you cringe at how awful you look in your photos, simply change your perspective and you may wind up liking a photo you previously couldn’t stand.
Objectively, I look pretty horrible in the below photo. My lips are colorless, my sports bra is clinging to me due to the rain, my eyes are half closed, my shorts are riding up, and I have a walrus-like expression. I initially cringed at this photo, but then I realized that I actually like it. This photo says “I am pushing hard, despite this crappy weather.”
When it comes down to it, whether or not you like your race photos is your decision. The reality is that most of us mortals do not look like Runner’s World cover models. Nor do we look like the “ridiculously photogenic” guy. We wear clothing that is comfortable and practical (not necessarily flattering), our facial expressions reflect our effort level, and our running form begins to fall apart at the end of a race. Because we’re in motion, any fat on our body can look extra flabby, and even muscles can look like fat. It’s just what happens when you run.
So cut yourself some slack. If you hate your race photos it probably means that you ran a hard race, and there’s a great deal of pride to be had in that.