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Complaining about The New York Times complaining about running photos

Warning - this entire thing is just me complaining about someone else complaining...


Just reading The New York Times this morning and on the front of the Style section I see they have something about running, or race photos to be more specific:

The subtitle (in the print version) is: "Race photographs are meant to immortalize your moment of triumph. Instead, they often catch you at your absolute worst." and it's got that oh-so-funny picture of the "Ridiculously Photogenic Guy."

Sweet, I think. A hilarious send-up of the unflattering photos that you usually get to skim through after completing any major race (and even a lot of 5Ks these days). I bet this will be filled with runner-themed comedy!

But, no... and I should have known better. This is in the Style section after all. This article is actually not hilarious at all (though I think the writer, and maybe some others, might see it that way). To me, though, it is a puff piece filled with things I hate:
  • Exaggerated complaining about bad race photos  
    • "It's really a screaming humiliation..."  
    • "My husband describes looking at his triathlon images as 'soul destroying'..."
Is your soul really destroyed from seeing yourself in an unflattering picture? Maybe if you didn't finish the race and on top of that you've got a terrible picture it might hurt your soul a little, but I think a terrible picture is more hilarious than humiliating.
  • Complaints about "privacy" issues 
    • "It's just one more public database in which my privacy is violated..." 
    • "Bad enough that anyone with a nose for snooping can look up anybody's finishing time."
Your privacy is violated? Why is it a secret what pace you ran? Or what you looked like when you ran it? Maybe you don't want to go telling everyone your time, but if you're not lying about it why does it matter? Should races seriously make this data private so that you have to jump through hoops just to view your finishing time? Plus most images require a bib number - you would really need to be a stalker to find your running photos.
  • People being exasperated by nonsensical things:
    • "...each time you spot a single-lens reflex camera, you are forced to waste energy debating whether or not to smile."
If you're wasting energy on this debate you are not focusing on running the race. I've definitely posed for some of these and totally ignored others. But my brain wasn't traumatized and my time destroyed by making the decision of what to do.
  • An annoying fashionista berating athletes for their outfits:
    • "'And ladies, really, come on,' said Kristin Mayer... you can look beautiful as you whip up on the competition...."
I have a feeling Kristin Mayer is the kind of person that puts on makeup and styles her hair before she goes to the gym. Most women I know are running to get/stay in shape or because they love it (or, more often, both), not because they think they look amazing when they're doing it. It's weird to care more about how you look running than about actually running.
  • And finally, maybe the lamest of all, tips on how to get "great" race photos:
    • Tip 1: "If you want great photos, you can't show up in your 'Royal Tenenbaums' training suit. Your clothes need to say, 'I'm an athlete.' That means athletic-cut sunglasses, and proper running shorts and top."   
    • Tip 2: "If you're truly serious about getting a good race photo, scout the course and set up a shot with an iconic background and great light."
Sure these are both great suggestions for getting great race shots... but WHY are you (the supposed reader of this article) so worried about getting great race shots? That is the last thing I'm worried about when I'm running. The point isn't that I should LOOK great (in real life, much less in a photo), the point is that I should FEEL great and RUN great. Also, I think your actual performance should say "I'm an athlete" way more than your clothes.

The only redeeming line in this whole piece is at the very end when Sean Walkinshaw, the director of business development at Brightroom says "People always say, 'Jeez, Brightroom, you always get me at my worst, and I always want to say: 'That's the way you're running. You've probably never seen yourself run before.'"

Exactly. You probably don't look great when you run, and neither do I - because hardly anyone does. You're basically in the middle of a workout. You know why people look awesome in Runner's World or in Brooks ads? Because those photos were professionally taken during a photo shoot and not snapped in during a grueling marathon! Runners, you have enough to think about in making sure you get across the finish line, don't start stressing over whether your race photos are "good enough" as well.

You don't have to be a world-class athlete to be a runner and you definitely don't have to LOOK like a world-class athlete to be a runner. That's the amazing thing about the sport. You can wear whatever you feel comfortable in and run with whatever expression on your face you want.

And don't let the Style section of the NYT tell you otherwise!

Okay, I'm done complaining for today (maybe).


  1. I was just thinking about this yesterday because I noticed that a direct link to the Marathonfoto page for each runner now pops up when you search this year's Chicago marathon results. So, it may be easier to stalk someone than you think! But I agree, if you worry too much about how you look while running--and *especially* about how other people look--you're pretty much missing the point.

    1. Woah you're right. That was really easy. Race photo stalking just got way easier - so maybe there is something to that point. Also, you're totally breaking one of Kristin Mayer's rules: you're supposed to braid your hair and not wear a ponytail! Somehow that didn't stop you from totally killing it!

  2. "You probably don't look great when you run, and neither do I - because hardly anyone does. You're basically in the middle of a workout." - Well said!

  3. Ha ha ha. What an awful article. Do people seriously care that much about pics? Sure, I am bummed if I run a race with a friend and none of the photos have both of us, but I find it hilarious when I look ridiculous!

  4. Amen! You read my mind. I seriously rolled my eyes again and again when I read that article last night. I'm like kilax...I laugh when I look ridiculous. I'm totally linking to your piece cause I was going to blog about that article too.

  5. Oh man that is pretty unintentionally hilarious! Sure, I love when I have one flattering race pic (out of many unflattering ones). But sometimes the unflattering pics are hilarious!

    As for the privacy thing ... I figure with the internet and GPS these days, privacy is a lost cause. Is your life really so interesting that you don't want people to know your races times??? I don't get that.


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