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Road Racers: I'm talking to you and you're responding!

Many Sunday mornings I rise at the crack of dawn.  Sometimes I grumble a bit about that.  Or I grumble about the weather:  it's either too cold, too hot, too foggy, or too rainy.  But once I'm in the car and find some beautiful music I'm allright and I start looking forward to being part of yet another road race and the road racing family. I photograph these races for Potomac River Running Races (=PR=Races) and I have been doing that for many years. 

Last Sunday I found myself in Fairfax, VA for the Rockstar 5K and Fun Run.  Upon arrival I did what I usually do:  walk around, get my bearings, take some candids to warm-up and mentally become part of the event.  I also  check in with the other photographer - my buddy Craig- and exchange stories about our latest photo shoots or talk about technical stuff or new ideas.

By that time I'm all geared up and ready to go! I watch as the runners start gathering at the start chatting with each other, jumping up and down a bit for a final warm-up or in solitude focusing on the race.  At that time I always think:

" Should I?"

I'm usually a little shy.  But I decide to go outside of my comfort zone, grab a chair and before I know it, find myself in front and above the crowd.  And I'm calling out to them:  "good-morning everybody!"

I'm not sure what they're thinking about this weirdo standing there but I'm not allowing myself to wonder about that and as I haven't gotten everybody's attention I'm calling out again:  "Good-morning everybody.  Are you guys ready to race?"  And they all respond!  It feels good to have made contact.  I quickly lift up my camera and shoot several Hail Mary's.  It's always uncertain if and how these photos come out:  they might not be in focus and there will certainly be some odd angles (although I often find myself intentionally tilting my camera). But I want to capture the response.

By this time I feel part of the family of runners.  I feel a bond.  I know that may be strange but it is really true.  And I feel exhilarated and happy! What happens next is just simply amazing.  They don't just respond...they respond tremendously!  

The following photos are a tribute to all the runners.  Please look at the expressions and ignore the background.  I know Potomac River Running likes its new race location in Virginia but from a photographer's point of view it's terrible:  the sun is always in the wrong place and it's not very scenic.

While I'm photographing I'm talking, just to myself or to the runners.  I tell them that they're almost there.  I tell them it's a great way to start their day and I tell them that my camera loves them.  If I had more time, I'd tell them a lot more:  how they inspire me, how impressed I am with them, how much I appreciate them and definitely how much I enjoy being part of their family.

The joyful expression on this little girl's face -painted during post-race festivities- resembles how I feel.  Yes, it's another great early sunday morning!