I was hired to photograph the 2013 Cleveland Marathon recently. With over 20,000 participants, it was challenging, to say the least.
I was stationed at the 2.5 mile point and also the 22 mile point. At the first setup, the 2.5-mile point, my co-photographer and I had to be set up and shooting photos by 7:00 AM because that when the first of the participants were starting to come through. Because of the early start time, we had to be very careful with our camera settings, trying to balance a high enough shutter speed to capture crisp images with the dim lighting, which would want to underexpose the photos we shot.
We wanted a deep DOF, so we had to shoot at a smaller aperture (f/8), which made the settings even more of a challenge in the early morning light. The fact that we were stationed in a heavily-treed area also did us no favors when it came to light, but it made for a very pretty backdrop. After we nailed down the camera settings that were going to give us the best possible images, we waited for the first participants to make their way to us, which only took about 5 minutes.
The first people to get photographed by us were blind runners riding hand-cranked bicycles. They were really amazing to see. They were all flanked by sighted cyclists that gave them directions for upcoming bends and turns in the road, as well as obstacles and runners that they passed. Its hard to imagine hand-cranking these bicycles nearly 23 miles, but these iron-tough participants did it like pros.
After the hand-cranked cyclists came the runners. First they came in small packs, but them the onslaught started. Thousands and thousands of runners came pouring by me in wave after wave. Because they were so tightly packed it was very challenging to pick out individual runners, but I did my very best to do so. I shot my DSLR nearly continuously for over an hour. I was having my own private photo marathon, with my arms feeling like they were going to fall off from holding the camera up for such an extended time. In the short span of 45 minutes, I shot over 1,800 photos. So many that my shutter finger was getting numb!
Slowly though, the runners got more sparse until the final runner made her way by. We immediately swapped out our memory cards, filled out the paperwork, and jumped in the car to drive from the far east side of Cleveland to the far west side to capture the runners on the opposite end of the course.
As we approached the parking area for our next location, the 22-mile point, we couldn’t believe our eyes. The lead runner was already coming up the road! In the time it took us to photograph the participants and drive across town, this guy had run over 22 miles! We stopped the car in the middle of the road, I grabbed my camera (glad that I set my camera up on the drive there), jumped out of the passenger side door (while still moving), and shot this photo of the first-place runner. Whew!
I then had the time to get into position while my co-photographer parked the car and continued to shoo photos of the first-place pack. The crowd of runners was much more spread out at this point, with nearly no large clusters of runners, so I wasn’t so hard pressed to shoot nearly continuous photos. We were stationed at the top of a long grade, so these poor runners had to really push themselves to run toward us, and that’s reflected in their expressions. Amazingly, some runners were smiling, talking, and waving at me for the photos after running for hours on end. We stayed there for nearly 4 hours waiting for the last of the participants to make their way by, then packed our gear, filled out the required paperwork, and headed back.
At the end of the assignment, my arms were tired but I felt great otherwise. I had a great time photographing the event and hope to do it again next year. If you participated in the 2013 Cleveland Marathon and would like to find photos of yourself, go to https://www.marathonfoto.com/ and enter your name or bib number.