Running a marathon looks really hard, photographing one isn’t that much easier. Granted, I didn’t have to run the 26.2 miles or even the half marathon but I did have to get up early and find compelling images of a group of people who, as my friend Allen said, were trying to run away from me. Now since I was there on assignment, I did have some specifics to cover, but these were more about the celebrities present than the race itself.

The first gallery here is at the starting line. As you can see from the first couple of images, the sun had not yet made an appearance but there were runners stretching, eating and getting an early morning rub down by the medical staff in the early dawn hours. The staff busy getting the start line in order as the sun started to make an appearance. Then the action started to pick up with the Marine band playing, hosts Samantha Harris and Mayor Jerry Sanders, biggest loser contestants; Melissa and Lance from the Red Team, the Team in Training supporters, Bill Walton and even some of the Real Housewives of Orange County all in attendance. Now I was there to get images of Samantha Harris, the Real Housewives of OC and any other celebrity who was in attendance or who was going to run. The challenge photographically is that they were all constantly moving and the light was constantly changing.

I was shooting a Nikon D700 with the 70-200mm, f/2.8 lens and a Nikon D2X with a 17-55 f/2.8 lens. I approached the shoot as I would any live event shoot by trying to figure out where the subjects were going to be and how close I could get to them. With the marathon, this was tough as the tiny stage that Samantha was on was filled with two video camera crews and race organizers, so I shot from below, in the middle of the elite runners staging area.

After the Marine Band and National Anthem, the wheel chair racers were off, then went the elite runners and then the rest, all 30,000 of them. This event was to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the Team in Training folks raised a LOT of money for this worthy cause.

After watching and photographing about half the runners leave the starting line it was time to head over to the finish line. Having credentials came with VIP parking which was an absolute necessity in getting from the start line the finish line in time to see the wheel chair winners cross the line.

Shooting the finish of a marathon is a lot of waiting with a few seconds of action. I spent the time before the first runner made it across the finish line by setting the exposure and taking shots of some of the 1/2 marathon finishers. Then it was time to get the first of the full marathon runners crossing the line. For the record, Richard Limo won the mens run with a time of 2:09:58 with William Chebor in second and Nicholas Arciniaga in third, while Yulia Gromova won her third straight San Diego Rock’n’Roll Marathon on the woman’s side with a time of 2:27:38 with Shuru Diriba in second and Serkalem Abrah in third.

Some random things you should know about the marathon and my experience shooting it.

  • There is always a big group of running Elvi. (that’s the plural of Elvis)
  • Nikon and Canon can be used side by side
  • The Marine band is awesome
  • The hardest part of the day is getting to your car
  • Bill Walton is genuinely a really nice guy.
  • The organizers really try hard to make sure everyone has a good time.
  • There is very little about 5am that is Rock’n’Roll.
  • I would love to photograph other marathons but am never going to run one.