Every Step is a photographic diary following runners from Glasgow training and competing for the Paris Marathon. I became friends with them through two of Glasgow’s run clubs. On Wednesday evenings I run with Achilles Heel, Glasgow’s leading independent running & sportswear store. My Saturday mornings consist of an easy club run followed by coffee and breakfast at Outlier, Glasgow’s most thriving cafe with a gallery space. The community in each club continues to flourish; both are inclusive to all abilities yet have ambition in being at elite level. I have made firm friends at both clubs and I consider them to be family. I began photographing the runners from Achilles Heel and Outlier training in February 2023. Every Step explores why they are so drawn to running, the importance of community and the atmosphere before, during and after the Paris Marathon race on the 2nd April 2023.
Sequentially Every Step introduces each runner accompanied with transcribed interviews. Both running and photography are time-based activities. I wanted to play with frames and repetition to express movement and time in my photographs. Working between fast and slow shutter speeds, having subjects both in and out of focus informs the concentration of a runner’s mindset. The runner is present physically yet their mind works blissfully elsewhere. We notice the seasonal transition from winter into spring. The leafless trees stand cold in the backgrounds. Gradual bursts of colours from blossoming flowers and bluer skies heighten the atmosphere, drawing closer to the trip. Shared thoughts on the Paris Marathon express everyone’s love for running.
Further into Every Step we see the beautiful moments in-between running. From the quiet house, contemplative reflections in Parisian puddles, collecting race numbers in tiresome queues and eating dried fruit before race day all allude to the marathon. These events hold just as much weight as the running and fuel the marathon’s anticipation. I searched for hope before the race through city life; the solitary lady holding flowers in the busy train and our communal meal the night before the marathon. These photographs embody a togetherness giving way to the event.
The marathon itself was a tiny fraction of the entire journey. Everyone’s training and emotions after seemed to be more memorable than the race. I vividly remember my 30km runs during the relentless winter months in Glasgow and the mixed emotions after the race. The marathon experience was almost a blur, adhering to the unconscious mind working with the running body. We see only one image of the marathon alongside my poem Race Day, imparting the notion of this memory. The title Every Step comes from the first line of Race Day.
Following this are photographs expressing everyone’s enjoyment after the race in Paris. We walked through the city and sat ourselves in Luxembourg Garden. Although my race did not go to plan, I felt at peace being surrounded by friends I was able to overcome my biggest physical challenges with. My heart melted at the sight of the clear sky and sun soaked trees. There was a gentle breeze that gave rhythm to each shadow in the garden. Other runners who also finished the marathon sat beside us; flowers given to them as congratulations by their friends. Our day spent together was one of tenderness and reflection. From newspaper searches of ourselves from the race, Parisians enjoying a quiet read in the sun and tranquil reflections from puddles, all celebrate our Marathon experience. Written thoughts about the race by everyone accompany the photographs. Every Step concludes with images of healing at the sports clinic in Achilles Heel, being open-ended to what the next challenge is.
There is a romance inherent in overcoming a physical challenge, especially with friends. It was a privilege to run with everyone on the trip. This project was a labour of love and I sincerely hope it encourages anyone to try running and overcome challenges, achieving what one thought was impossible. I give my sincerest gratitude and best wishes to Richard, Tessa, Stuart, Ryan, David, Craig and Celine for their future running endeavours. On to the next one!