A recent C25k graduate, who is justifiably proud of her running, was sharing her awful photo from her first Parkrun with me recently. (Her words not mine.) Whilst she has transformed her fitness, going from never running to completing 5k and enjoying a few solo runs, and is well on her way to 10k; her confidence took a battering with this red-faced huffing, puffing image.
“Don’t worry,” I reassured her, ” everyone looks terrible when they run.”
The skill, I explained, is not necessarily to become fit enough to pull off a relaxed, glamorous, I’m-in-a-Tampax-ad image; that’ll never happen. Instead, learn how to fake it. Luckily for her; she’d come to the master!
I have had way too many bad race photos. I’m pretty sure I looked better during childbirth than during some of my races. Let’s face it, running, and especially racing isn’t pretty. The sweaty, windswept chufster look is never going to be flattering but, remember that these photos are your memories. When clutching your medal and bragging of your awesomeness on social media it is important to have a super snap to affirm this…it just takes a little effort.
So here’s some of my tips for making sure you get the best possible run photos.
- Dress appropriately. The perfect running shot starts at home. Now, obviously you are going to wear kit that is comfortable and suited to the job in hand. However, a good fitting top can make a difference. I’m lucky that my club vest’s horizontal stripes are quite flattering, (worth bearing in mind if you’re looking to join a club.) Unisex race t-shirts look boxy on women, a too short tee will flash your wobbly midriff and a waterproof jacket, half unzipped and flapping in the wind can double your size. If you know your hair is going to look rubbish, wear a buff, a cap or teach yourself to Dutch braid. Never wear mascara.
- Keep a lookout. Some race photographers are sneaky and like to hide in bushes at the top of an uber-steep hill. The good ones place themselves to get the best shot and some even put signs out “Photos Ahead.” Learn to spot a snapper at a scenic spot and actively engage them. Chances are the poor souls have been out in the cold for a while taking pics of passing crowds. Trust me, they love it if you shout “cooee!” and give them a wave! If you race regularly, get to know the local paps and make sure to thank them for their efforts. By shouting “MORNING DAVID!” I always get my Parkrun pic! Make sure your finish line shot is glorious and not you looking exhausted and stopping your watch.
- Personal space. Is the person next to you your best friend? Do you want a photo of them as your screensaver? A few steps to the side and they are no longer in your shot. If you are on the shoulder of a 6ft 10 built-like-a-rugby-player type drop back a few paces. Think composition: create your space.
- Vogue. Usain Bolt got it right when he came up with the lightning bolt pose as did Mo Farah with his M thing. Me? I blatantly stole the aeroplane from Tinyrunner. Some people put their thumbs up, others wave, some jump 3 foot in the air and click their heels together. If you can muster the energy to shamelessly pose for 5 seconds you will find it easier to find your photo in the online galleries and will look like you are having the whale of a time too. Make it look easy (you can manage that for 5 seconds!)
- Smile. Running is hard work. You train hard to race hard. Why ruin all that with having a terrible photo of yourself? Always smile. Remember that you are running because you want to. If you are racing you’ve paid to do this! Train yourself to smile. As Roald Dahl said in The Twits, “if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” (Don’t overdo it though. If you smile constantly and there’s no camera you’ll look unhinged.)
- Enjoy yourself. If you are not winning the race make sure it looks like it’s because you were having too much fun at the middle of the pack party. If you are near the front do that weird bouncy step thing that you speedsters do, that makes it look like you’re flying. (Never mastered that one myself.) Wear stripy socks if that’s your bag, deely-boppers, a comedy Christmas hat, a tutu, go for the cool Paula Radcliffesque shades.
If someone was taking your photo at any other time, you would stand up straight, smooth down your hair and try and look normal. Be proud of what you are doing! Don’t accept bad run photos. Make the effort to make sure you get good ones. And, if someone tags one of you looking like a monstrosity, immediately un-tag yourself and unfriend them!
Photo credit. David Belshaw