Last fall I was thinking of ideas for a personal photo project to carry me from January through March/April. Those can be slow months for photographers and I wanted to have a good excuse to be out shooting. Something to keep me busy and continuing to hone my skills through those normally brutal winter months.
As a former runner (I really need to fix that), I know how hard people train for their spring races. The weather is often terrible - cold rain, snow, darkness, freezing temperatures - you get the picture. They work hard training for their spring event - training that is often never seen by even their closest friends.
Luckily, I know a good number of local runners (remember, former runner). So I reached out to Kelly Wolfe, the Grove City Community Run Club organizer, to see about posting to the local group in search of a willing participant for this project.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, Kelly was going to be training for the Boston Marathon this year. And even better, she volunteered to let me stalk her through her training as she prepped for the Boston Marathon! I couldn’t have asked for a better subject for my personal photo project.
Boston Marathon and Kelly
For those that don’t know - you actually have to qualify to run in the Boston Marathon. That means run really, really fast for 26.2 miles to even sign-up. You have to work to be able to run Boston. This isn’t a pay your money and run type race.
When I found out Kelly was interested in being my subject of this project, I was beyond excited. She was perfect for what I had in mind. Not only was the training going to be intense, it was for a pinnacle race.
I had the luxury of knowing Kelly since the formation of the Grove City Run Club, I knew she was a fierce competitor. I knew she was a natural runner. I knew she trained hard. But I knew she trained hard while juggling a career and family. She was perfect for this project.
The plan for this project was to not only capture a person training for a pinnacle event - the early mornings, the terrible weather, the darkness, etc. - but to also capture some of the behind the scenes. The social aspect of running. The morning prep at home while still trying to tend to the family. The treadmill. All the things that go into a marathon training plan.
I was going to follow the training through January through April, right up to the race. Then I was planning to photograph the race itself and capture the moment of crossing the finish line. The months of training coming to fruition.
My goal was to pull back the covers on what a high performance runner does to compete at a major event. It’s easy to get caught up with rooting for someone on race day - but that misses all the work that goes into prepping for the event in the winter months to even perform at that level on race day.
The project started off well. I caught a track workout in early January. Though the weather was surprisingly warm (for January), it was an early morning workout and intense.
Later in January I captured parts of a trail run in bitter cold and spitting snow (and flooding). Another intense workout in prep for Boston.
And later on in February I caught another group track workout. Another intense workout, where it was very clear who was calling the shots for the workout.
Unfortunately, this is where the project came to a halt. With COVID-19 gaining even more prominence in the U.S. began to bring the project to an end. Between early social distancing and then finally the Boston Marathon being postponed - the project had no choice but to draw to an abrupt close.
I missed some of the more social shots I was looking for. I missed the treadmill. I missed the morning prep before heading out to a run. These are the elements I really feel would have added to the project.
I’m not sure just yet. Right now it seems very difficult to make any plans at all that involve crowds of people. I am not sure if this project will just be postponed to September or to another year.
But I had to share select images from the project I had in mind. While not complete, I think it signifies what I had in mind for the project.
And just as my project didn’t reach completion, neither did many of the training plans for many, many runners. Runners who trained hard. In the early morning hours. In freezing temperatures.
The Project Gallery
Below is a photo gallery of select images from my personal project. I highly encourage you to open the images so you can see the full composition as intended. If you click on the first image, you can use the arrows to scroll through the images in their original composition.