A series of fateful occurrences led to my participation in the February 2016 Blue Ridge Outdoors cover shoot. The fortuitous opportunity went way beyond my talents to trail run, because there are plenty more people in our area that are more experienced, faster, and likely more glamorous looking on a trail. I recently joined the RunAbout Sports Roanoke athlete team. RunAbout Roanoke also recently partnered with Mountain Junkies as the title sponsor of the RNUTS series. RunAbout is what you might call a voice of authority on running in the area. So of course the photographer of this shoot, Sam Dean of Sam Dean Photography, reached out to Ed Shepherd of RunAbout Roanoke when he had a couple day turnaround to put this winter trail running shoot together. Ed asked a few local female runners if they were interested, and I was the first to respond. Badabing!
I knew it was going to be cold the morning of the shoot, so I packed a bag full of winter running apparel and a big to-go coffee. Ed picked me up around 7:00a.m. and we swung by the store to grab some wardrobe change options before heading to Carvins Cove. We were running a bit late, but made it to the shoot just in time to start with some great sun-rising-over the cove shots. The temperature was hovering around 17 degrees Fahrenheit, with a wind chill even lower. Luckily I had on tights, a tech tee and then a capilene base layer, topped off with a running jacket and some cold weather accessories. It was cold, but not unbearable. Ed on the other hand, wore a tech tee and a running jacket, shorts, gloves and a running cap (see picture above). The BRO editor’s specs called for a male runner in shorts, and being the professional he is, he followed it to a T. Despite the shorts, ears and fingers were the main pain points tormented by the cold.
I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. Would I be able to check off my run for the day? How much running is actually involved in a running photo shoot? Come to find out, not as much as I expected. Looking back, that seems silly. What did I expect, for Sam and the rest of the photography team to chase us around the trails for miles while also taking pictures? We warmed up for about 400 meters before we got to the prime location. Then we basically sprinted back and forth in a 100 – 150 meter section while the camera crew changed angles and did their thing. As the artistry progressed, Sam directed us to try different speeds so he could get stride shots. We tried various distances between us, did some solo shoots and some together. At one point Sam was on top of a very tall ladder, and we ran back and forth underneath it. We did a few shots of us smiling and laughing (one of these actually made the cover), but most were of a more serious I’m-working-out-hard nature. The most challenging part for me was to look up, run fast, and oh yeah, try not to trip over the rooty ground. It seems obvious, but this experience confirmed that I indeed spend a lot of time surveying the ground when running on trails. While Ed and I managed to remain upright, we both definitely nearly bit the frozen dust a few times. The photo on the cover was taken right after one of those trips, and we were both trying to stay composed. I mean, if runners can’t laugh at one another nearly toppling over, then we’re probably taking it all too seriously! It certainly made for a happy image, which in the end is indicative of how many of us feel while running on the trails, even if we don’t actually look that way very often :).
We did the shoot at two different locations near the Bennet Springs section of Carvins Cove, one near the water, and one at higher elevation. In between the location change, we huddled in the RunAbout-mobile (Ed’s SUV) drinking hot coffee, and eating bananas and scones that Sam had graciously brought us. After this quick break in the warm vehicle, it was off to a different section of the trail. Back in the cold, I learned that two skinny runners don’t do a very good job at keeping each other warm by huddling together, and that I need some new running gloves for temps below 20 (before the second location, I changed jackets and my hands were so cold that I couldn’t zip it up). We both got better at keeping our eyes up as we ran (Ed seemed like a pro at this, but this wasn’t his first rodeo with running shoots), and we eventually warmed up just enough that we didn’t protest when asked to remove our hats.
Sam is an amazing photographer, and a kick-ass runner himself, as are both of his colleagues that helped with the shoot. I tried to soak up as much knowledge from them in the short time we had to talk, strategizing about ultra training and chatting about some of the uber-seasoned runners in the area that I could reach out to for more training tips for my upcoming 50k. Now if I could just find a way to make this a full time gig….
The outdoor-oriented talent in our area (photography, running, coaching, you name it) is drawing attention. Roanoke, VA was represented on the cover of this magazine, which is distributed in 11 states, and also with a great Trail Heroes story about Anita Walker Finkle, an inspirational local runner. It was great fun and a wonderful honor to be a part of this experience. The only thing left to take care of is to convince the husband that framing f.o.c. copies does not qualify as a proper Christmas gift for friends and family.
See some more of my favorite images below (credit: Sam Dean Photography):