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!
Check out a related blog post: www.marleenvandenneste.com/blog/july4/firecracker5k