Guest Blogger Luis Bueno

From near perfection to total disaster, race experiences vary immensely.

A marathon could have been the most rewarding experience of your life or it could have been a notch above a death march. However a race turned out, the memories will fade and only one reliable source for retelling the day will remain.

And it’s not you. It’s the finish line shot.

Your finish line shot will reveal much about your race. But here’s the beauty of the finish line shot – the right pose might sway that retelling of a race in your favor. A picture of you smiling at 26.2 won’t show, for instance, the tears that were streaming down your face at mile 24. Nor will they show the breather you took at mile 20… or 20.8… or 21.7… or 23.2…

On the contrary, a bad finish line shot and the story goes against you. Grimacing at the end? Well, you must have had a bad day, right?

Along with a shiny medal, a wrinkly race bib and a t-shirt proclaiming the race name and date, pictures are tangible evidence that you indeed ran a race, that all of your efforts and focus and attention and everything else you put into training resulted in something.

But none of those other things tell stories. Pictures do, and in particular the finish line shot.

Coming away with the perfect finish line shot is not only the best way to put an exclamation mark on a race but could also save you during the race itself.

Surf City 2010: I forgot to smile, but the arms raised to the sky pose punctuated my first marathon triumph. Surf City 2010: I forgot to smile, but the arms raised to the sky pose punctuated my first marathon triumph.

DANGLING CARROT

Races can be rewarding and fulfilling but they can also be cruel. Negativity can often creep its way into your mind when you are churning your legs and trying desperately to maintain your pace in order to meet your goal. The thought may flash across your mind – will I make it to the end?

The finish line is essentially your happy place. Once you cross it, you will be done, you can rest and state aloud and on various social media outlets that you, strong runner, have done it and have defeated the distance. While that happy place can be miles away, depending where along the course you are, it may seem even further than that.

You can’t physically put yourself at the finish until your legs get you there but you can make it to the finish line mentally well before; you can start fantasizing about the happy place by preparing the ideal pose. If you start thinking of your finish line shot and trying to perfect the pose, you will have no choice but to cross the finish line.

More so than the painfully slow countdown mile markers provide, pondering the best finish line shot could make the final miles go by a bit quicker but more importantly it will keep you sane.

PLANNING POSES

So what do you want from your finish line shot? It depends on how the race is going. If it’s a difficult race, arms outstretched at your sides may suffice. If you have finally qualified for Boston or bested some other eye-popping time goal, a wide smile with a fist raised high overhead would be grand.

San Francisco Marathon 2010: My glory pose, I'm trying to say "Look at what I just did!" with my arms out to my sides.

Mostly, though, you want to look as if the race was enjoyable or rewarding, a positive experience. Smiles do well to convey that. Certainly no grimacing and no scowling misshapen faces.

There is one pose, however, that is particularly terrible and no matter how the race went, this pose can only ruin the race experience.

DON’T LOOK AT YOUR WRIST

After gunning or slogging through a race, having conquered the hills, crowds (or lack thereof), weather and all other obstacles, it’s natural to see how you did, so a quick glance at your wrist might tell you that.

Except that time is perhaps the worst indicator of how you did. A time won’t relay how you felt when you finished your marathon; it won’t portray the emotions that surged inside when you were steps away from the finish; it won’t proclaim to others that, yes, you are now a conquering marathon hero.

Instead, your obsession over time will be forever frozen – and you may not have been that obsessed with it in the first place.

And are you really going to want to share the finish line shot of your first marathon if it is of you with a blank expression looking at your wrist?

COMING THROUGH

After you’ve decided on your finish line shot, there are a few things to consider when the moment is arriving.

First, look around. The finish line shot must only be of you. If there are other runners in close proximity, try and speed up in order to get into a clear area so the camera will have an unobstructed view of you. If you are shoulder-to-shoulder with somebody, make absolutely certain your neck is the one in front at the finish.

It’s not quite clear just when your picture will be taken, so as you approach the finish line strike your pose and hold it until well after the finish line. If your arms are overhead, keep them there. If you have a smile plastered on your face, smile away for a several seconds. Once you are in the clear, perhaps several yards past the finish, you can start celebrating… provided you don’t collapse. That’s the time to stop your watch or whatever timing device you used and start recovering.

Maybe you met your A-plus goal, or perhaps you really are close to collapsing. Whatever the case, the picture you just took will be the best proof that you did it and you had a great time doing it.