2015 BAA Boston Marathon
Over the past 21 years the third Monday in April meant only one thing to me — The Boston Marathon. I ran it for the first time in 1994 and for (possibly) the last time in 2014. In those years I ran Boston a total of 17 times (completing 16). The years I didn’t run the race, I volunteered my services as a photographer to race management — Dave McGillivray Sports Enterprises (DMSE). Dave is a personal friend who happens to run the best race management company in the country (if not the world).
My task this year was to ride in the lead truck in front of the elite women and photograph things along the course related to race logistics — things like the water stops and crowd control elements to see if/how things can be improved in the future. It wasn’t easy, and I’m not 100% sure I succeeded in getting any images that are of value. But I know I got some images that are worth viewing! I was facing the runners, shooting setup areas as we passed them. Of course, I also set my sights on the runners.
I was sitting in the top tier of a pickup truck fitted with three levels of seats for the press and a couple of course coordinators. We were the first truck. Behind us was a second press truck with news photographers, followed by the video truck which was providing the live video feed to news outlets. With two trucks between me and the runners, it was a challenge to get a clear view of the runners.
It was a spectacular day of shooting, on a less than spectacular day for running. The forecasted rain held off for the elite women but soaked most of the rest of the field. Everyone who ran had to deal with the cold temperatures and nasty headwinds.
The shots in this post are among my personal favorites from the day.
Security was tight, plentiful and very visible. Here, a State Police Captain provide final instructions to his troops.
Howie Kramer Directs the Lead Trucks
Everything about the race is exactly timed and little is left to chance. The lead trucks had to be in position about 5 minutes before the start of the race. Here, Howie Kramer directs my truck into position.
The Lead Pack
This was taken early in the race Somewhere in the first couple of miles in Hopkinton, I think. Shooting with two trucks between me and the lead pack was a blessing and a curse. While it was difficult to get a clear shot of the lead women, the position of the trucks often presented some interesting framing.
The first 10 miles of the race run through Hopkinson, Ashland, Framingham and into Natick. And it is almost all downhill. In most cases it is so subtle a downhill you think you are running on flat ground. If you are not aware of your pacing or you didn’t train for the downhill these first 10 miles will kill your quads, making your last 10 miles a death march.
Speaking of Downhill
The distance between my truck and the lead pack required me to shoot with a very long lens. I shot exclusively with the Olympus 40-150mm Pro 2.8 lens, which on my Olympus OMD EM1 has a range equivalent to 80-300mm on a full-frame system. The long lens compresses the scene, which really accentuates the hills, as you can clearly see in this shot from Ashland.
In the marathon it is important to stay hydrated and take in nourishment along the course.
It is difficult to describe the phenomenon that is “the tunnel” at Wellesley College. Wellesley sits at almost the half way mark of the race. The quarter mile stretch in front of the college is lined with the Women of Wellesley cheering at the top of their lungs for the runners. The runners know they are getting close because they can hear the screams from about a half a mile away.
The truck was in my way. So I shot it.
For about 16 miles the lead pack stuck together. It was really amazing to watch. This was taken in Newton, just before the dreaded Newton Hills.
The three mile stretch through the dreaded Newton Hills is one of the most popular places to watch the race. A grassy median strip between Commonwealth Ave. and the carriage road is always thick with spectators and vendors. The road is thick with chalk graffiti — words of encouragement to random runners. The hills themselves are somewhat overrated. Yes, they are a challenge, but they are not a daunting challenge if you trained properly.
In order to get any shots looking forward down the course, I had to turn and lean out the side of the pickup truck, which was traveling at a steady 10 miles per hour. Framing and focussing was difficult, but I managed to get a few shots to help complete the picture. The Wellesley Women shot is one of them. This is another.
Down to Three
This was shot just past Kenmore Square, less than a mile before the finish. For most of the race the lead pack numbered 10-12. Somewhere around mile 18 it started to thin out. Around the 23rd mile the pack dwindled to three and would stay that way until Hereford Street where Buzunesh Deba of Ethiopia would fall back. That left Caroline Rotich of Kenya and Mare Dibiba of Ethiopia to duel it out down Boylston Street. In a last second surge, Rotich kicked it in and won.
The lead truck package bolted down Boylston Street and exited the course near the Lenox Hotel, just before the finish. I jumped off and ran down to Boylston Street where I watched the women finish. After that I ducked into the Lenox Hotel to warm up. I spent the rest of the day shooting from the street. These last two shots capture a handful of the sub three hour runners.
I hope you enjoyed this little set of images as much as I enjoyed shoot the day. Although, that is probably not possible since I can’t recall having that much fun shooting.
If you have any questions about the day or this set, please hit the comments section.
Bob, these are great, what a super post, my favorite is through Ashland, looked like a crappy day but the B&W treatment really gave every shot a “feel like I was there” feeling, enjoyed it!
Fantastic story, Bob!