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12 Aug, 2016

Strike a Running Pose

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I read somewhere that the first rule of race photos is that no one looks good in their race pictures. The second rule of race pictures is that no one looks good in their race pictures. Looking through my own pics, I think they’re right… especially since I keep pulling off the same goofy poses!

When I started running races more than 20 years ago, I loved it when one of the race photo companies was ‘on duty’ to capture me in full flight or crossing the finish line. As a result, I tended to buy all the pictures sent to me in the post (this was in the pre-digital era), even the not-so-good ones, because I wanted the ‘memories’ to go with my growing collection of medals. I especially loved the pics where I was running with a clubmate or friend, because those were the most special memories.

However, the one thing that got to me as my collection of pics grew was that I never seemed to look good in my pics. I was always grimacing or looking half-dead, or alternatively smiling like a lunatic who just escaped from the asylum and found a road race to disappear into while making his escape! And some of the faces I pulled over the years defy explanation!

I have therefore come to the conclusion that race photos are much like ID photos – no matter what you try, they always seem to come out badly. And yet, the next time I see a camera pointed at me in a race, there I go again, throwing the same old poses, pulling the same faces or doing the same crazy thing that ruined the previous set of pics. There simply is no explaining it. And looking through my many race pics, I can see a few standard poses through the years…

The Winner: For some reason, in my early races I felt compelled to raise both arms in the air when I saw a camera pointed at me, which made me look like I was about to win the race. The fact that I was actually 975th out of 1427 runners had no bearing on my pose! There is even one race pic where I am finishing the Safari Half Marathon, coming down the finishing straight, and there just happens to be no other runner in sight, so it looks like I’m actually about to win the race. Totally ridiculous!

The One Finger Salute: You raise one hand nonchalantly, extend the forefinger while balling the rest of your fingers loosely, and point in the general direction of the camera, but taking care not to point directly at it, so that the extended finger can still be seen. I have no idea why I do this all the time, and I have way too many pics like this to count. On rare occasions I have seen runners do a double-handed one-finger salute. Again, can’t explain it…

The Talker: As many running friends know, I enjoy a good chat during a run, and sometimes I’m so busy chatting to the runner next to me that I don’t see the cameras. Cue a wonderful side profile shot of my face, because instead of looking at the camera, I’m looking at the runner next to me. And with my receding hairline, side profile shots are not flattering!

The Ignorer: This is my standard pose these days, in a valiant effort to avoid all the above-mentioned poses. I guess the logic is that if you pretend to ignore the camera and concentrate on running while looking ahead with a determined look on your face, the camera will hopefully, for once, capture you looking like the elite runner you wish you were. Problem is, invariably the camera button gets pushed just as you gasp for another breath, so your faces is slightly contorted, your cheeks are wobbling, your eyes are slightly glazed and you look like you are just about to collapse. At least, that’s what I look like in some my more recent pics…

Of course, there are others, which I also try to avoid at all costs…

The Flexor: These runners flex their muscles at the camera when they see it, usually the biceps, because it’s blinking hard to flex your leg muscles while running. Just take my word for it…

The Waver: For some reason, these runners feel the need to wave at the camera. I mean, come on, when does anybody wave at a camera? All that waving does is put a blurry object vaguely resembling a hand right in front of your face, or in front of your race number, meaning that the race pic company can’t identify you to send you your pic, or you ruin the pic of the oke next to you – and Murphy’s Law says it will be the one time that oke actually managed to strike a good pose and it’s the one race pic he would really like to buy for his collection, and order the enlargements for once, but now your blinking hand is right in front of his face!

The Reluctant Hand-Holders: Sometimes the camaraderie out on the road makes us want to hold on to each other, and what better way to do this than holding hands and raising our arms as we cross the finish line? This pose works well if both or all runners involved in the pose participate fully, but invariably it is one runner grabbing another’s hand and raising it, and you can see how reluctant the grabbee is by the fact that the grabber seems to be hanging on to the grabbee’s limp hand. A pained expression on the grabbee’s face is usually another sign, as if to say, “Dude, I’m tired, I’m grumpy, and I can barely lift my arms anymore. So give me my arm back, you madman!”

The Flasher: On cold days we wear jackets or shells over our race vests, which means our race numbers are covered. Then suddenly we see a camera and the first thing we do is lift our outer top to show our race number, and just like that, we’re caught flashing. Don’t know what we’re thinking, because it makes a lousy photo.

The Thumbs Upper: You see the camera and immediately give a thumbs up sign. And if the race is really going well, and you don’t have a cramp in your other shoulder, you give two thumbs up! And it is usually accompanied by the biggest grin you’ve ever seen – so naturally you look cheesy when the pics arrive. And the runner next to you is looking at you with that perplexed look, obviously wondering what kind of drugs you’re on.

But my ultimate no-no pose…

The Walker: For some reason, us runners have this morbid fear of being caught ‘on film’ walking. We have no qualms about taking a walk break during a race when we get tired or face a really steep hill, but just let somebody point a camera at us and we heave ourselves back into running motion, even if it means we may lose our breakfast around the next corner, or makes us look like a walrus trying to drag itself up a steep beach! Just as long as nobody sees photos of us walking!

Sean Falconer

Sean Falconer

Editor |

Sean is Editor of Modern Athlete Magazine and is based in Stellenbosch. He manages the Maties Women's Soccer Team, runs himself and does regular race commentary on weekends. The Busy Body.