Why leaping at the finish line is a no no

220 columnist Martyn Brunt’s got it in for anyone who does a leaping side-kick in race photos. To him, that just means you’re not trying hard enough…

heel click

I’ve always been inexplicably irritated by runners who do leaping side-kicks on race photos.

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I realise this is a niche thing to get annoyed about, but for some reason I always find myself clenching whenever I scroll through race pics and see someone in mid-air with their legs in a sideways scissor kick.

I explained this to some of my friends on a recent training run and the general consensus was that I was just jealous of the range of movement that the people who leap about must have, because apparently when I run I ‘look like a bad tempered lamp post’. However, it isn’t this.

What I think is at the root of my irritation is that when it comes to race photos I’m a bit old school, in that I generally pretend the race photographer isn’t there.

As a result all the photos of me emerging from the swim look like I’ve just been woken by a fire alarm; my bike photos suggest I’ve replaced my saddle with a pine cone; and on the run I hold an expression which suggests I’ve just rubbed gravel into my gums.

Over the years I’ve tried different strategies when spotting a roadside photographer. In my early tri career I of course tried to look all sporty and serious to kid people that I was good, and to mask the fact that I was dribbling death sweat.

But a quick look at my results would reveal this was just bull***t, so I gave that up in favour of smiling and trying to look cheerful, which just made me look creepy.

Triathlete racing toward the finish line
Credit: Pete Sherrard/Getty Images

I remember during my first Ironman trying to look athletic and magnificent on the photos of what was going to be my race of a lifetime, but by the half way point of the marathon I’d long stopped caring what I looked like and was fully prepared to accept whatever agonised, snot-covered image I was portraying just as long as I finished.

So these days the absolute most you’ll get from me is a very occasional and reluctant thumbs-up if I’m going well. For the most part though, I just appear in my natural state – red and sweaty with flappy hands, a shuffling gait and a face like I’ve just swallowed a gel made of cardboard pulp and asbestos.

The only exception was a couple of years ago when I emerged from a swim leg in first place ahead of several serious-faced elites. I was notable for the massive smirk on my face.

The absolute most you’ll get from me is a very reluctant thumbs-up

I think when it comes down to it, I just dislike mugging for the camera, because if you’ve got time and energy to leap about you aren’t trying hard enough.

Say what you like about my races – and people do – but I give them everything I’ve got, and there’s no time for titting about doing catwalk poses.

Perhaps unwisely I took to Twitter to express this opinion, and was surprised at how strong the feelings were on both sides of the debate.

Ben Kanute claims fourth win in a row at Escape from Alcatraz
Ben Kanute celebrates as he crosses the line to claim his fourth win in a row at Escape from Alcatraz (Credit: Scott Strazzante/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

On the one hand I had several people, mostly in America seemingly, telling me I should be ashamed and should let people celebrate how they want, all of whom were clearly overestimating my influence in the sport if they think I could get this kind of thing stopped.

I also had several people sending me photos of themselves mid-leap and saying things like ‘zero ****s given’ – although this just suggests to me that lots of ****s are given.

On the other hand, I received considerable support, particularly from triathletes in Australia I noticed, where not only is leaping evidently frowned upon, but from where I received a whole list of other things that people hate bitterly on race photos.

It included people who make heart shapes with their hands, people who dab or do the Usain Bolt pose, people who over-celebrate at the finish when they haven’t won, and particularly people who make finish-line marriage proposals.

Despite the feedback, I continue to find the wasted seconds and effort involved in leaping side-kicks mildly annoying, but each to their own I suppose. Anyway, I’m off to Australia.

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Illustration: Daniel Seex