Running: Photo finish a pleasant surprise

Posted: May 25, 2014

When Andy Cliver and Liz Yaeger finished the Wild Half, a Wildwood half-marathon, last Sunday, they didn't know they had a surprise waiting for them: free race photos.

Typically, race companies ask for permission to photograph a race, and then sell photos directly to runners with the race getting a percentage of the profits. They aren't cheap, either. Buying just one high-resolution digital photo from last year's Philadelphia Marathon cost $39.95.

Many community races offer free photos, but instead of hiring someone, they have a volunteer photographer take pictures and then post the photos on sites such as Facebook or Flickr, and runners can flip through the photos to find themselves and download them for free.

Instead, the Wild Half hired Moondoggie Studios of Cape May, and paid it a flat fee to photograph the race. The photos were then uploaded to the race site, and runners could search by their bib number and download free photos. Runners could also grab photos from Facebook.

Organizers didn't tell runners about the free photos before the race because they wanted it to be a surprise thank-you.

"At the end of the race, we wanted it to be a little extra something for runners as a thank-you for being part of this race and getting it off the ground," said Merideth Fiorucci, director of group sales and events for Morey's Piers, which puts on the race.

That's because this race has run through a stormy path. The Wild Half should have been first run in August 2011, but the event was canceled because of Hurricane Irene. Then the night before the August 2012 race, a storm parked itself over the Wildwoods and flooded part of the course. The event still went off - I ran it - but runners had to choose either to run through or around water.

Organizers then decided to move the race to May, which involved getting approvals from the three towns it goes through (North Wildwood, Wildwood, and Wildwood Crest), and that meant sitting out 2013 altogether.

This year, the half-marathon had 1,632 finishers, and 641 people finished the 8K that was run on the same day. Cliver and Yaeger, of Collingswood, ran the race in 2012.

"We thought the race had potential," said Cliver. "When we saw it was scheduled for mid-May, we thought it would be a fun excuse to spend the weekend in Wildwood and kick off the summer."

The couple has run half-marathons and marathons before, but never bought photos from those races because of the price.

"It was a nice touch for them to give us a free photo," said Yaeger. She didn't mind that the photos include the Morey's Piers and Wild Half logos in the corner since they "don't obscure anything and they let you know right away which race it was." They could also share the photos on social media, which became free advertising for the event.

The couple plan to run the race again next year, and to continue a tradition they hope will catch on: wearing a cheesy Wildwood boardwalk T-shirt over their regular running shirts. (Cliver's shirt said, "Suns Out Guns Out" and Yaeger's was a fringe T that said "Ratchet.")

Next year's half-marathon and 8K will be held May 17, and organizers are adding a 5K for the day before, along with a kids Wild Half Mile, a one-mile event.

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