In 2007, I had the opportunity to photograph the Marine Corp Marathon held in Washington, D.C. Waiting at the finish line for the runners to arrive, I wondered what to expect. How would I react to them? And them to me and my camera? Not surprisingly, some shied away from the camera. But the vast majority were far too wiped to even notice which provided me with a fantastic opportunity to capture a wide range of emotions. Some were so physically drained, they were completely incapable of conscious thought. Their bodies had served them well, but in return they demanded every bit of the runner's attention at the finish. As I watched their blank stares I could imagine their brains taking over to keep the most basic involuntary mechanical functions going.
Breathe. Right foot, then left. Breathe. Sit down. Breathe.
One incredible runner was an amputee—no doubt an injury suffered in the early years of the Iraqi conflict. His reasons for running the race seeming so profound as I watched him swap his running leg for his walking one. There were many runners that crossed the line as if they'd just run around the corner. The winner that year was Ethiopian Tamrat Ayalew—clearly a natural talent with impossibly thin legs, who I photographed once as he rested on the grass shortly after crossing the line, and at the finish line as he embraces a friend.
But as I looked over these photographs, something jumped out at me. Where someone needed support it was there: physical support to hold them up; medical staff to treat the injured and exhausted; a friend or stranger looking out for one another assuring each other that the pain would pass. These are the things I took away from the event.
Yes. These are amazing athletic feats, but that's what you expect from a marathon. But the kindness and support for each and every woman and man who needed it is what sticks with me. And I think it comes through in these images.