I Shot a Dead Runner

by Steed Dropout
Dec. 31, 2013
Berkeley, Ca


I am writing this to tell you of my deep remorse over my involvement in this unfortunate incident.

I’ve been accused of being insensitive, like when I sulked over being scooped by an explosion on campus which terrorized or injured hundreds of Cal students.

“If you really want to hear about it,” (Holden Caulfield) it all started when I boasted to an editor or two that I would shoot–from start to finish–the more than thirteen mile historic first Berkeley road race. I planned to do it on a road bike, while toting three cameras (I shot with all).

Berkeley’s first (and one man’s last) sanctioned road race–from start to finish, Nov. 24.

Before the start. Photo by Ted Friedman.

For what it’s worth, I was the only photographer who accompanied the runners.

The Start! Photo by Ted Friedman.

I regret not waiting for the crowd of mid-pack runners to run past a stunning view of San Francisco. But if I’d waited there for that shot I wouldn’t have shot the runner, who needed CPR. Near the paramedic van, someone told me a runner was down, “just up ahead.”

Off-ramp to the bay. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Of all the things on my mind, the privacy of the runner never occurred to me. The race was a public spectacle. I didn’t get the privacy angle. A crime photographer, like Weegee, would sneer at the privacy angle, but his subjects had been bumped-off.

He may have been a friend of the downed runner and he was in my camera face. He waved his arms about, like NFL linemen, trying to block me. My response? I told him I had the shot and to, like screw himself. Too much (understandable) adrenaline or my bad?

The Bay. Photo by Ted Friedman.

In fact I had quite a few shots–total coverage. When an editor said I “had a real scoop,” but unfortunately the publication would not violate the runner’s privacy.” I responded with, “perhaps a little less carcass,” and submitted some of my peripheral coverage.

Only Berkeley Reporter would run the tasteless (“carcass”) shots of the stricken runner, who was not looking his best, after running near the finish out in front of all but the elites. He was an elite, himself, ahead of the few but fast, I had just shot. I never would have caught him on foot. Such thoughts were far from my mind, as I referred to his body as a “carcass.”

CPR. Photo by Ted Friedman.


What if the downed runner had died? He did, actually, but only weeks after the race.

After CPR. Photo by Ted Friedman.

If he had died in the race, I would have had exclusive photos. Death of Runner Mars Berkeley Race. If he lived, which he did for weeks, he has medical privacy rights. That idea was foreign to me. The fox in me had reverted to animalism. I was a beast. I hated myself.

The Finish. Photo by Ted Friedman.

When I read the runners’ obituary, I was struck by some similarities between me and the runner. If this were twenty years ago, I might have competed at this distance. The runner was beloved by everyone, including his students. After reading his obit, I loved him, too.

In the race that killed him, he was leading all but a few.

The obit left that out.

Views here do not reflect those of publications in which my work appears.

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