The Marathon’s Photographer

Karen Russell gets ready to take a picture as Boston Marathon runners make their way through Kenmore Square. (Photo by Sravan Gannavarapu/BU News Service)

By Sravan Gannavarapu
Boston University News Service

A picture is said to be worth a thousand words, but then, how many would you need to describe twenty years of photos capturing last-minute dashes, cheers from the crowds and memorable finishes? 

Karen Russell of Boston has a pretty good idea. Russell has attended the Boston Marathon for close to 20 years and has been a staple at the finish line, grabbing photos and speaking with the runners on their experiences throughout the 26.2-mile journey. 

“I usually enjoy taking pictures of the elite runners when they cross the finish line, and then they have a ceremony afterward, and I usually take pictures of the stage there as well,” Russell said. 

Russell usually cheers on runners at the finish line and often doesn’t go to other parts of the race, except for one year, in 2013; when the Boston Marathon bombings took place, Russell was situated at the start of the race instead. 

“It really felt that an angel was watching over me that day,” Russell said. 

This year, Russell found herself at Kenmore Square, honing her photography skills and cheering on the runners. Carrying her tiny camera and extra batteries on her bicycle, Russell placed herself at the front of the viewing area and grabbed plenty of photos of runners and cyclists as they made their way through the race. 

As the first runners neared the final mile of the race, Russell began clicking away, trying to get as many photos as she could while also politely asking police officers who patrolled the area to make room for the shot.

“I just enjoy being there where the excitement and everyone is just so into it,” Russell said. “Most of the excitement happens at the beginning and end of the race, so if you can’t be at the start, you should be at the finish.”

While Russell enjoys being at the event, she was disappointed that she could not be at the very end of the race like she usually is due to the heavy traffic and crowds at the end, keeping some spectators away from seeing the finish line.

“The finish line is where history is made,” Russell said. 

Still, Russell enjoys speaking with the participants following the race’s conclusion, the most common theme being how they enjoy coming to Boston each year to participate. She said she will continue to show up with her camera to make memories, while also providing suggestions to make the event better. 

“I spoke to someone with the (Boston Athletic Association),” Russell said. “And he said that he appreciated my feedback and would see if they could do anything about how the finish line is set up.”

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