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They wear blue to honor, remember the fallen

They run to remember their friends, family members and people they’ve never met. They run to honor the service of the fallen and as a support network for those left behind. Many of them pin the names and pictures of their loved ones to their shirts. If you look closely in the crowd of any marathon or road race, you’re likely to see someone wearing the blue shirts of  the non-profit organization, Wear Blue: Run to Remember.

The founder, Lisa Hallett, started the group after her husband CPT John Hallett was killed while deployed in Afghanistan. I had the honor to meet Lisa and work with the organization recently at the 29th annual Army Ten Miler in Washington, D.C.

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Shooting straight into the sun at the starting line / Photo by Joe Newman

The Army Ten Miler, which begins and ends at the Pentagon, is one of the annual fall highlights for the nation’s Capital, attracting runners from all over the world. For Wear Blue, the Army Ten Miler and the following Marine Corps Marathon take on special meaning because of the deep ties the events have to the military community.

Taking pictures at the Army Ten Miler turned out to be a lot more challenging than I expected. There were 35,000 runners at the event, which made it a little chaotic navigating around the starting area before the race. I also found myself at the starting line shooting directly into the rising sun. That’s absolutely something I should have anticipated, and something I could have accounted for with a filter.

The finish line also caused some problems for me because, even after 10 miles, runners were grouped pretty tightly. For some reason, I had imagined that the runners would be coming across the finish line one, two or three at time, giving me a chance to leisurely track them from a couple hundred feet out with my long zoom. Instead, I had to pick the Wear Blue runners out of the pack and then hope that I could get some unobstructed shots of them as they crossed the finish line. The announcer’s stand was also casting some nasty shadows at the finish line.

After whiffing on a few action shots, I started asking runners after they crossed the finish line if they would pose for portraits. That actually worked out pretty well.

I definitely learned some valuable lessons about shooting big races like this.

  • Whatever time you plan on arriving, get there earlier. I got to the race starting area about an hour before the start. I needed to be there about two hours early.
  • Know which direction the sun is going to be rising and where you’ll be standing in relation to the sun and whatever you’ll be photographing. Know the logistics of the event — how is the action going to flow? What are the best vantage points?
  • Carry a bottle of water. I walked about three to four miles back and forth between the starting and finishing areas and was working about 3 1/2 hours before I had a chance to grab a water bottle.
  • If plan “A” isn’t working out, don’t hesitate to move on to plan “B.”
wear blue

Photos by Joe Newman

All photos by Joe Newman. More from the Army Ten Miler on flickr.

Joe Newman

I'm Joe Newman, multi-media story teller, non-profit do-gooder, international street photographer, serious poker player, intrepid traveler. Bourbon drinker.