Joel Reichenberger: Runners can't stop smiling

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Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Joel here.

There have been several difficult parts of this job since I started it more than three months ago.

It was hard when I covered the North Routt Coureur Des Bois, the massive cross-country ski race that sent competitors to and from Wyoming. In search of quality photographs, I hiked more than a mile up into some forest area. Not only was the hike made more difficult because of my unfamiliarity with the mountain altitude, I wasn't wearing snowshoes and sunk 18 inches into the powder with every step.

It was hard when I covered the state tennis tournament, where Steamboat Springs High School had athletes in seemingly a dozen important matches, all going at the same time, and it was hard figuring out what was important and what wasn't when covering the Paddling Life Pro Invitational.

Nothing, however, has been as hard as shooting photos for last weekend's Steamboat Marathon.

It's honestly hard to shoot bad photos in the mountains. Everywhere you look there's always a perfect backdrop. But runners - more so marathoners, actually - are nearly impossible to shoot.

The problem is they're so happy. I don't blame them. If I could run that far, I would be happy, too. But they're so happy, they feel the need to pose for nearly every photo.

People went all out for the marathon. Some had T-shirts made. Many wore special packs and brought along snacks. And nearly all threw every camera they saw a wide grin, their arms flailing in the air.

Some runners, 20 miles into supposedly one of the more difficult marathon courses around, would stop and think about what crazy stance they wanted to do for the photographer.

In search of some rustic, scenic photos, I got back off the road a little ways and ducked down to shoot the runners coming down one of their final descents. I thought I was nearly invisible from the road, only my stubby camera lens peaking through the timbers.

I thought wrong. Even then, with me 20 yards off the path and hiding, runners skipped as they ran past, threw their arms in the air or reached out and mugged with a friend.

One woman, not to be dissuaded by my hiding spot, ran 30 yards trying to get me to shoot a photo with "bunny ears" behind her friend's head. I hope it was her friend, anyway.

The thing is, I always obliged. I shot more than 1,000 pictures. Sure, we didn't use any of those crazy ones in the paper, but people seemed to enjoy me taking their picture so much I figured the least I could do is snap one or two.

The marathon marked another great day for Steamboat. There were winners - men's full marathon champion Jason Saitta took another step toward legendry status with his eighth victory - and there weren't any losers. Hundreds of people finished their race, and no matter if it was 26, 13 or just six miles, it was a great accomplishment.

I don't need to tell anyone how proud they should be, though. One glance through my photo archives and I'm well aware they were all plenty pleased with themselves.

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