Out There: Race Photos

Remember, runners come in all shapes and sizes.

So what if I don’t look like a runner in a magazine? I’m still a runner, and a happy one at that.

If you look in the advertising pages of most running magazine, almost every photo shows a slim, smiling runner with perfect form.  Most of the women have lean legs, and the men have ripped six-pack abs. Their facial expressions range from happiness to intense focus, but the one thing in common is a conspicuous absence of sweat.

Naturally, when I open my race photos, I expect to find the same thing. Imagine my disappointment when I look less like Kara Goucher and more like a constipated, angry New Year’s baby. Instead of a smile, I’m grimacing. There’s a slight muffin top coming out of my shorts. I suddenly grow seven new chins over the course of a half marathon. Not only am I sweating profusely, I also seem to have forgotten how to consume fluids without dribbling all over my chins – every one of ‘em. To add further insult, there’s usually a hairy dude wearing short-shorts in the background of the photo, power-walking with a smile.

I believe race photographers have a contest for ugly race photos. No, really. I’m trying to wrangle an invitation to the race-photog holiday party, because I’m absolutely convinced they have an awards ceremony for achievements in various categories, including “Most Chins,” “Muffin Top, “Slow, Steady Death Shuffle,” “T-Rex,” “Pain Cave,” and “She Looked Like THAT?!?”

Why can’t the race photographers be at mile 2 of the run, when I’m not such a hot mess? Instead, they always seem to be at the top of the biggest hill, 11 miles into a race, when runners are covered in a disgusting combination of sweat, failed snot rockets, and dear-gawd-please-make-it-stop. In short, race photos makes runners look like a lot of things, but “happy” isn’t one of them.

Perhaps the most outlandish thing about these horrendous race photos? I buy them. Yes…I actually pay money to have documented proof of my…er…attractiveness.

Don’t get me wrong – I’d prefer a picture where I don’t look like an elephant giving birth, and I’d pay top dollar for a race photo taken at a clever angle to insinuate I have six-pack abs. But I still appreciate my fugly pictures just the same.

Every race has a story. From the picture of my very first 5K, where I was dancing about in my first bib number, to my most recent races where I’ve transitioned from “just-finishing” to racing so hard it hurts, these race photos illustrate my story. When I look back on the pictures from past races, I recall cities I’ve traveled to, the friends I’ve made, and the lessons (good and bad) I’ve learned along the way.

In each one of these pictures, I can assure you, I was genuinely happy. I swear, if you squint your eyes and turn your head, you can actually see a hint of a smile in that grimace.

I could have chosen a different lifestyle, one documented with flattering photos in perfectly-coiffed hair and expertly-applied makeup. I could have an album of pictures where I’m not wearing spandex, and where I never even know what my thighs look like when a photographer captures them mid-jiggle. But, to be honest, that doesn’t sound very fun.

So what if I don’t look like a runner in a magazine? I’m still a runner, and a happy one at that.

Even if the photos suggest otherwise.

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About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

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