Category Archives: running

Running Around

Okay, I promised more photos, shorter posts, so here we go. I spent the first weekend of the month in NYC for the marathon. I put together three photo slideshows for the combined Runner’s World/Running Times coverage site. You can view them here, here and here. As always, it was an exhilarating and exhausting trip.

And I just returned from three days in D.C. where I was taking the photos for a story on the inspirational, gifted and incredibly nice Phil Wharton. He is a whirlwind of positive energy and healing forces. You’ll have to wait until next spring or summer to see the story in Running Times, but here’s a pretty shot taken at the lovely American University track—where he works out with the track team—to tide you over.

Success Story

In late November of 2009 I travelled to a sprawling suburb west of Toronto to photograph the subject of a Running Times feature in the March issue of the magazine, which is now on the newsstands. Runners profiled in the magazine all have something special about them, but this one just may take the cake. The subject was 78-year-old Ed Whitlock, a legend in the world of running whose many accomplishments include a 5:41 mile in the second half of his eighth decade and a 2:54 marathon at age 73, both age-group world records. Amazing, right? But there’s more. Whitlock trains ONLY on a short (no more than 5-minute) loop in a graveyard two blocks from his home. He runs round and round in circles day after day, not varying his speed, just plodding along for an allotted time, which can be anywhere from 20 minutes if his arthritis is bothering him to 3 hours when he is healthy and preparing for a marathon.

You should read the full story to get a really good sense of Whitlock’s attitude and approach. The writer, who happens to be my husband, does a marvelous job of capturing his spirit. Better yet, pick up a copy of the magazine to get the full effect of the photos, which ran large with lots of room to breathe. (Above is an image of the opening spread.) Moxie Sozo did a great job with the layout. It reflects what Whitlock is all about: austerity and simplicity. I think this story is an excellent example of writing, photography and design working in concert. Too often in publications one of those three elements is lacking and it takes away from the impact of a story. For a photographer, there are few things worse than taking photos that you are happy with and then seeing them severely cropped or run postage-stamp size or covered with too much type in the layout. On the occasions when everything works well together, I get all warm and tingly and feel so glad and proud to be able to call myself a photographer.

Behold Boaz


I traveled a fair amount in 2009 to photograph various running events and runners. One of my favorite trips was to Ypsilanti, Michigan (near Ann Arbor) to shoot Boaz Cheboiywo, a talented Kenyan runner who will likely become a U.S. citizen this year. When you insert yourself into someone’s life for a couple of days and try to make great photos, there are a number of scenarios that can unfold. Sometimes the subject is hesitant or inpatient. Sometimes the weather is horrible. Sometimes, as was the case with Boaz, the subject welcomes you into his/her home with open arms, makes you dinner, invites you to be present at all their daily activities…AND the light is a perfect mix of subdued sun and clouds. The photography gods smiled on me this trip and I was thankful. To see the full result of this (including Boaz holding the ridiculously tall pile of chapati he made for dinner one night), you should pick up a copy of Running Times’ January/February issue, which is now on the newsstands. The article and some of the photos are also online.

The image at left didn’t end up being the opening photo because a horizontal worked better, but it’s still my favorite shot of the trip. This was one of those wonderful times when I had a clear vision of what I wanted to do and it worked out exactly as I wanted. Driving around the vast open farmland where Boaz runs multiple miles every day by himself, it occurred to me a portrait of him amidst the corn could be powerful. We headed out to do a portrait session just before his second run of the day as the blue gray clouds of dusk were forming ribbons in the sky. There wasn’t much time before it would be too dark. I pulled over where there were ample dried cornstalks and tall honey-colored wheat, set up a flash unit on a lightstand, added a small umbrella, set it slightly off to the side and within the first few shots could tell my vision had been fulfilled. Boaz, by this point, was comfortable in front of the camera and seemed to know exactly what stance and expression to take without me saying a word. It could be that he is a natural, but I like to think that we’d spent enough time together at this point that he was comfortable with me. I never take photos upon first meeting my subject. I like to get to know them first without that barrier between us and believe it makes for better photos in the long run (no pun intended). Boaz is running the Houston Marathon on January 17th. I will be rooting for him. He has not only put in long, lonely hours on the road, but he’s also an awfully nice guy—one that this country will be honored to call their own.

I Want to Be a Part of It…

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The crowd at the base of the Queensboro Bridge tries to catch a glimpse of the lead men's pack as it flies down First Avenue.

I shot the New York City Marathon last weekend for the combined Runner’s World/Running Times coverage of the race and the events surrounding it. Much like I did for the Boston Marathon, I shot and compiled several online slideshows. And much like Boston, it was a rewarding, but exhausting weekend. Okay, maybe a little more trying than Boston, given some ludicrous circumstances that I won’t bore you with, but that involve a certain hotel with a lousy Internet connection and lung-searing fresh paint fumes!

ANYWAY…back to the race. I started out at 58th Street and First Avenue where the runners first come off the Queensboro Bridge and enter Manhattan at mile 16 of the race. I’ve been at this spot in the past and even as a person who shies away from noise and crowds (such a natural choice I am for covering a 40,000-person race in the fourth-most-populated city in the world!), I never tire of the roar that erupts at this spot as runners come off that bridge. Almost makes me want to run the race. ALMOST, I said. How cool is it that all these strangers are cheering for you? You must feel like the biggest hero in the world when you hear that crowd.

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The swarm of people that boisterously welcomed runners coming into Manhattan.

One of several Maasai runners in the race added even more color to an already dazzling foliage display.

Next I jumped on the subway and headed uptown to the east side of Central Park. It was actually much easier to get around than I thought it would be based on past experience. The crowds were thin between miles 24 and 25 of the course (a great place to watch if you don’t want to fight your way through mobs of people, but still want to be relatively close to the finish).

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The two most important tools for friends and families of marathoners: a phone and a camera.

Then it was on to the finish, well, with a slight detour. I meant to head toward the finish but actually wound up near Columbus Circle, which is the half-mile-to-go point. (One of these years I’ll know where all those windy paths in Central Park go!) The crowds at Columbus Circle have been difficult to navigate in the past, but again, it was surprisingly sparse here so I took some shots before heading on to the finish area. This is where I met the inspirational “pan man” from Yankee stadium. Freddy, you rule.

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Runners in the final half mile of the marathon cruise toward the finish in Central Park.

Eight or so blocks past the actual finish, where the runners file out of the park to meet their loved ones, I was meeting a fellow journalist who was going to help take down some information about the runners I was photographing for the Faces at the Finish slideshow. I calculated I had a half hour or so to take some shots in the immediate finish area before I was so late that he would hate me. It was a great spot to capture people in a range of post-marathon emotions…euphoria, exhaustion, misery and most frequently, relief.

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The marathon can reduce even grown men into weeping babes, as demonstrated by Desmond Henderson of Ireland who sunk tearfully into a loved one's arms post-finish.

I’ve never seen so many spent looking people in one place, both physically and emotionally. It really drove home how hard running that far is (at least if you are doing it at a decently fast pace). Not that I would know.  A lot of people ask me when I am photographing events like this if I’m a runner. Many say “you look like a runner.” (And let me tell you, that is not a compliment. They might as well say “you have a flat chest, cavernous eye sockets, dangerously sharp cheekbones and a hard gaze.”) But I’m not a runner. Not really anyway. I often say “I used to be” because to me being a runner means competing in running events, which I did in high school and my first year of college and then sporadically afterwards until I took up cycling, which is now my sport of choice. My fragile frame has a hard time enduring the toll pounding the pavement takes. But I still know the euphoric feeling running can bring. And its pain and disappointments as well. Photographing this range of emotions is a way for me to live vicariously through people who are able to run 26.2 miles. And for that I am grateful.

On the Road

Okay, so it’s been a while. Sorry. The past couple of months have been a jumble of personal and work trips, and they aren’t over yet. Here are a few of the pictorial highlights.

LATE AUGUST: We visited my sister in Connecticut, where there were wildflowers, fog….

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a bathtub in the woods…

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farm-fresh fingerlings and a delectable stew…

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LATE SEPTEMBER: I went to the Common Ground Fair (for the first time I’m ashamed to say). There were proud farmers….

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and lovely food specimens…

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I biked up to Bar Harbor from South Portland (yes, that IS 162 miles) with two wonderful friends over two lovely fall days. We spent the second night on Little Cranberry Island where my friend Kelly grew up. Her mother, Anna, whose picture should be next to the word hospitality in the dictionary, still lives there, as do some of her siblings, some of whom are lobstermen. They provided us with a dinner of the freshest, most succulent lobster ever…

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The next day I had a couple hours to explore the island in all its golden fall glory….

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EARLY OCTOBER: I traveled to Michigan for a Running Times shoot. There was a world-class runner, a crazy chapati-eating dog (photos of these curiosities to come in the Jan/Feb issue of the magazine) and corn, lots of it…

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MID OCTOBER: Fall in Maine isn’t complete without a visit to an orchard. We chose Dole’s in Limington where there was a cat on a mission…

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and a surfeit of the round red things….

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Stay tuned for more adventures!

Battle Conditions in Boston

I just finished up a hectic two days of photographing the Boston Marathon and events surrounding it. Previously I’ve done photo-related work for the New York City Marathon, but this was my first time covering Boston.

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Anna Willard stayed on the heels of Shalane Flanagan, outsprinting her in the final 150 meters to win the inaugural B.A.A. Invitational Mile, held the day before the Boston Marathon.

Delving into either marathon in a work capacity is like diving into a pool and holding your breath until you get to the other side. From the get go you are totally immersed in another world, one in which what is occuring outside your immediate environs matters not a whit. (A colleague called his wife on marathon Monday thinking it was Sunday and she was like “um, hello, I’m at work.”) You have a singular focus on achieving the task at hand. And just when you think your lungs might fill with water and you will never again emerge for air, the end comes and you’re relieved, satisfied, buoyed even…oh yeah, and dog tired and starving because basic human needs like sleeping and eating sort of fell by the wayside!

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Kara Goucher takes one last stretch before attempting to become the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon since 1985. In a very close race, she finished third, 9 seconds behind the winner, Salina Kosgei of Kenya.

I certainly don’t intend this posting to be a complaint though. Being inches away from these incredible athletes and documenting their triumphs (or as case may be, failures) is a privilege. My policy when working at these types of events is to be unfailingly polite, but forceful. To get good photos, I find this combination to be key. You don’t get anywhere by being a jerk, but you definitely have to have the temerity to get in people’s faces to get good shots. And even more satisfying than good shots (well, almost…who am I kidding? What’s more satisfying to a photographer than a great shot?!) is forming bonds with people you meet along the way. Almost without fail, everyone I dealt with in Boston, from hotel workers to race officials to fans to fellow members of the press, was incredibly nice and accommodating. Take, for example, my predicament on race day. I had been assigned to cover the race’s start area and the half-way point in Wellesley. A ride had been pre-arranged to take me to the start and Wellesley, but then I was on my own getting back to the pressroom at Copley Square in Boston. The first part of the day went as planned. I got to the start and also arrived in Wellesley at a reasonable time. After initially setting off in the wrong direction on the course, I eventually located the exhuberant women of Wellesley College.

    The students of Wellesley College have a long tradition of cheering on Boston marathoners. Known as the Wellesley Scream Tunnel, the quarter-mile stretch is a deafening gauntlet of high fives and, of course, kisses. Here, sophomore Megan Garratt-Reed is taken up on her offer by an eager runner.

The students of Wellesley College have a long tradition of cheering on Boston marathoners. Known as the Wellesley Scream Tunnel, the quarter-mile stretch is a deafening gauntlet of high fives and, of course, kisses. Here, a sophomore is taken up on her offer by an eager runner.

By the time I was feeling confident that I’d gotten some good images, it was well into the afternoon. I headed toward the commuter rail to see if a Boston-bound train might be coming along soon. Naturally, as I neared the station, a train was pulling out. The next one was not for another hour and forty minutes! This would not do. While contemplating trying to find a cab on a holiday in a suburb with significant road closures, I happened upon a family heading toward a parked car. I went for it: “You’re not by any chance heading back to Boston, are you?” Well, lo and behold, yes they were. And without a second’s thought they offered to take me along. And so, I was delivered back to Boston in a timely fashion, and made some friends along the way.

Then the marathon (literally and figuratively) photo editing session began. In the midst of it, a dear friend who takes care of our cats when we’re gone called to see if we’d be home in time to feed them dinner (the answer was no way) and to report that one of them was having some, ahem, digestive issues. This intrusion from the outside world reminded me that I was nearing the end of my submersion and that I could soon come up from air. Covering two days worth of events (including six races, the marathon expo, and a party) netted seven slideshows for the combined Runner’s World/Running Times marathon coverage site (not to mention numerous single images to go with time-sensitive race stories). Phew. It was a long, underwater swim, but it was worth it, much like the marathon itself, I imagine.

(Once I regain my strength, I promise to post those film shots from California! I haven’t forgotten.)