Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Why I'm proud of my unglam running photos

An open letter to 'Tekko', running photographer extraordinaire

Dear Mr Koh,

Thank you for your completely unsolicited advice on how to avoid unglam race photos.

(A warning to readers: if you click on the link, be prepared to throw up a little bit - between the grammar and the attitude. To save you the trouble, I'll summarise Mr Koh's sage advice for you here, after I run to the bathroom and hurl: 

"...For those ladies who are honest enough and admit that they do look unglam in their running pose, here are some tips on how to look glam:
1. Put on some make up. 
2. Tie up your hair. 
3.[Wear sunglasses to avoid the shut-eyed or slit-eyed look.]  
4. And last but not least, smile.")  

First of all, some of that is terrible advice.
- Wearing makeup while running is actually bad for your skin. Sunscreen, however, is recommended.
- I don't know how anyone with long hair can run with it untied anyway; won't it get everywhere?
- I'll wear sunglasses when the sun is in my eyes, thanks.
- No, I will not smile on demand just for you, honey. Go stick that lens where the sun don't shine.

Next, your post is totally insulting to any serious runner - male or female. I don't know about you, but I don't run to look glamorous while running. I run because I love to run. I love the way I feel while moving fast with the sun on my skin and the wind in my hair. I run to become a better runner.

I'm proud of every single one of my race photos. Even if it looks like I'm barely moving in some of them. Even if my hips are sagging and my hair is plastered to my face (you should see the triathlon photos of swim-cap hair/ helmet head, that's worse) and my form sucks at the end of a long run. If I look unglam and sweaty, that's because I'm actually working hard. I've worked very hard for some PRs lately and you're not allowed to belittle that.

It's a race, not a fashion show. Okay, so maybe some of us are in fact running to get into shape - none of your beeswax. I know you shot Shape, which is an all-women's race, but you don't get a free pass on the sexist attitude because of that. So your glamour shot examples consist of conventionally beautiful, slim women? I'm a runner, I have leg muscles. Sorry I'm not sorry. I wonder, if you were shooting at the Army Half Marathon, would you be complaining about unglam army boys too?

But either way, glam or unglam, that's none of your business as a race photographer. YOUR job as a race photographer is to snap action shots, not fashion shots. You're supposed to capture the full agony and ecstasy of running. (It wouldn't be called a race if it didn't involve *some* pain.) And if you're not capable of doing that, what kind of photographer are you?

Finally, what gets to me the most is that your 'advice' is completely unsolicited. You didn't offer it because someone complained to you about hideous race photos and asked what they could do about them. (Photoshop. Or don't run, perhaps.) You're offering it because YOU think we don't look 'glam' enough for YOUR taste.

Do I give a flying fish what you think I look like while running? Not one bit. So please keep your nose out of it - or next race, you can get a pretty little photo of pretty little me flipping you the pretty little bird.


The Genetically Challenged Athlete

PS: Later edit: it was Holly who first alerted me to the original post. Her post is awfully polite.
Fit and Feminist puts it better than I ever will.

I genuinely appreciate the time and effort put in by race photographers - who instead of running into a breeze have to stand out there in the hot sun for hours and hours. I especially appreciate the ones who volunteer - you're all heroes! But I don't care if my unglam photos ruin someone's album.

PPS: Husband, on reading the offending post: "Wow, I dunno why some guys think it's okay to say really stupid things if they add 'hurhur' or 'don't take it so seriously' afterward." So that's pretty much my final word on it - that was some really stupid advice. It's a blog, feel free to disagree. Ok, I'm done now! 


  1. I would write something insightful, but we've already covered pretty much every angle of this on blogs, Facebook, and in person. I'd say we've spent too much time on it, but then again, someone has to speak up. Preferably more than one someone. Thanks for being my Speak Up Partner.

    But remind me never to get on your bad side. You're hardcore.

    1. You're welcome! :) I also feel like I've wasted too much energy on something so stupid. But yeah, I will not hesitate to call people out when they say really dumb things :)

  2. I world love to use my bad English to reply to your uncalled for rude post but like you saiid it a free blog and I am entitled to disagree so I shall just leave you to your serious running. I hope you do better at that than being gracious.

    1. Hi Tekko, thanks for stopping by! Maybe it was meant to be kind advice, but unfortunately your post comes across as terribly sexist. But chill out, man. It's just a blog, right, so why take me so seriously? ;)

  3. Good post! I'm a guy and I look horrible in my race pics too ... I'm always grimacing! I'm proud of everyone of them!

  4. Of course I look 'un-glam' in race photos. It's a race for goodness sake. Do I care that I look 'un-glam'? Of course not - I'm a runner not a fashionista.

  5. Wow, I read your post, his post, his comments he added to the post and the comments to your post...and all I can still say is "Wow". I guess...even as a women...I can somewhat see that he might have been trying to provide some advice, but the whole makeup thing is just not on track at all. It would just run down your face and make you look even worse. My biggest issue with race pics is not that I look bad because of lack of makeup or my eyes being closed, it's because most of the time they manage to shoot you at the most awkward part of your foot strike...like on the when your feet hit the ground and everything starts to shake. Unfortunately for most of us unless you are a super model, you just aren't going to look great in race pics. It's not a glamourous sport and it's not meant to be.

  6. This screwed up tekko (u know the kind with smile or not, looks equally pervert-like) of a guy likes to shoot mouth first and say sorry later, come up with some crap like 'its just a blog'. Recently its been upgraded to 'its just cyberbullying'.