On race day, every runner is a model

Elizabeth Weil

Life may offer worse comedowns. But not many. You train for your big race. You put in the hours and crank out the miles. All your friends say you look terrific. Marathon morning, you pin on your number, run, sweat and finish. A triumph for you and your fabulous body.

Then, a day or two later, an email arrives: "Your photos are now online!" Below are several thumbnails of you shot by Brightroom or another one of the infernal companies that place photographers along racecourses. Who wouldn't click through?

Sadly—horribly—the list of ways these photos can and almost always do go wrong is wide and deep: Muffin top. Earthquake quads. Wind in the shorts, making it look as if you're wearing your derriere backward. Front wedgies. Let's not even get started on facial expressions.

"Honestly, I'm not sure why more people don't do this sport," joked Sally Bergensen, chief executive of Oiselle, a women's running clothes company she started after noticing in photos that her running shorts poofed at the waist, making her look fat.

Oiselle, along with magazines like Runner's World and Triathlete, offers forums online for people to post their worst race photos so, Bergensen said, athletes "can howl with laughter and feel less ashamed." Most cope in more neurotic ways. Some get peeved at the photographers complaining that each time you spot a single-lens reflex camera, you are forced to waste energy debating whether or not to smile.

Of course, great race photos do exist, but frankly they're so rare that Zeddie Little became the Internet meme Ridiculously Photogenic Guy after a photographer caught him last spring in the Cooper River Bridge Run in South Carolina, looking fantastic. Little had not seen a race picture of himself before, so he did not quite understand the fuss. "I mean, I knew the picture was funny, but was it really that funny?" he said last week.

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