Yesterday, we left off with me photographing one of my favorite people in the world, Nat Carter. At this point, I had been on the road for a week and was at the furthest point away from home in this trip. The rest felt like I was just making my way home.
RDU to BWI
I arrived late into Baltimore and made the drive that night down to Bethesda trying to make the next day as easy as possible since I’d be spending quite a few hours on the road. I woke up early and met with Jason Belinkie before school even started. This is probably the only stop on the trip where I was actually photographing in the best light so I’m a little partial to how the photos of him turned out.
Jason is definitely someone I wish I lived closer to. We hit it off and I think if not for the 3000 miles between Portland and Bethesda we could be really good friends. We chatted a lot about track and I loved his mentality on coaching. He seemed genuinely focused on making track and running important in the lives of these kids so it would be something that would stick with them forever. But that’s only one part of his story. The other part has to do with a foundation called Athletes for Hope. The foundation looks to connect professional athletes with different charitable organizations. We chatted about this for a while and I told him that I could hopefully connect him with some of my old teammates who are running professionally now. I’m definitely hoping to make my way back out to Baltimore so we can hang out a bit more. Here is Jason’s Portrait:
Bathesda, MD to Scranton, PA (Drive)
Back to the road! I loaded up my iPhone with a couple podcasts and after finishing my session with Jason started making the 4 hour trek from Bethesda up to Scranton. I rolled into town early afternoon and connected up with the next nominee, RJ Stiltenpole. RJ is another one of those guys that my heart completely goes out to. He helped create a program called the Barrier Breakers in his town of Scranton, PA. Originally, he was approached by a group of breast cancer survivors who wanted to train for the Race for the Cure. Now, he’s created a huge running community in his town. We talked about this for a while and his background as a runner. Definitely another one of those people that you aren’t surprised who got nominated for this award. Here is his portrait:
Scranton, PA to Southington, CT
After wrapping up with RJ, I luckily had the opportunity to visit my sister, brother-in-law and nephew for a night in White Plains, NY. I’m not going to lie, this was a huge bonus of the trip and after being on the road for so long it was super nice to just relax with family for a bit. The next morning I took off and made the short trek up to Southington, Connecticut to meet with my second to last coach of the trip, Dan Dachelet.
We met up at the track and we talked a lot about how much his athletes mean to him. Dan is a firefighter but really considers coaching as his full time job. I think the fact that he is a firefighter (and in the military) makes him a great leader and a great coach. He knows how to inspire his athletes and how to get the best out of them. A lot of the stories from this trip start to blend together a bit and sometimes it’s hard to remember exactly who said what. But, I do remember Dan telling me about how the track team wasn’t much of contenders when he first took the job but the program has turned completely around since then. I’m not surprised with how motivating he was just when we were chatting. Here is his portrait:
Southington, CT to Missoula, MT
After wrapping up with Dan, I made trek down to NYC to catch a flight out to Missoula. I didn’t leave that late in the day but because I was basically going clear across the country (and had a layover in Minneapolis) I ended up getting to my hotel after midnight. I woke up the next morning and went to go grab a bite to eat. Initially, I was expecting Missoula to be a little boring and not exciting whatsoever but I was totally wrong. Driving around town it’s kind of nestled in a valley with a river running right through the middle. In fact, it kind of reminded me of Portland but on a smaller scale.
I met up with the last person of the trip, Anders Brooker, around lunchtime. We met up at his running shop in town and initially I was a little worried that he wanted to shoot the photos around there. Kind of like my concerns with Hopey and the fact that it would have been a complete deviation from every other photo I had taken on the trip. But, after chatting with him for 5 minutes he asked me what trail I wanted to go to. Another 10 minutes later and we were in the middle of a forest getting ready to take photos.
Anders was such a fun guy to be around and we had a couple contacts in common. I think he spent more time asking me about my background and where I grew up than I asked him. I will say this was the perfect last stop of the trip. It was great to get out into nature and breathe some fresh air after all of the craziness. We walked around the trails for a bit taking photos at different spots and by the time we were done he was giving me recommendations of places to stop at before I headed to the airport. Anders is definitely one of the people that I hope to see again soon. And here is his (and the last) portrait:
Missoula, MT to Portland, OR
I can’t even express to you the feeling I had when I the plane touched down in Portland. It was nice to know that I was going to sleep in my own bed that night after being gone for 11-days. The job was way more incredible than I could have ever imagined. Going in, I was so nervous about what I was getting myself into. But, along the way I was about to meet some of the best people I have ever had a chance to meet in my life. It was an insane job and there were times where I didn’t want to spend another minute in an airport or a plane but if they asked me to go do it again tomorrow, I would.
Thank you so much for sticking through this incredibly long story about my travels. I felt it necessary to talk a little bit about each and every one of these inspiring people. Go check out their foundations, if you live in their towns go check out a track meet or go buy a pair of shoes at their running store. I know I will definitely be keeping up with each and every one of these people and if I ever find myself in… Seattle, Vancouver, Burbank, Dripping Springs, San Antonio, Wamego, Mount Sterling, Cameron, Bathesda, Scranton, Southington or Missoula I’ll be looking them up.
Super special thank you goes out to Karen Beck who sent me on this incredibly crazy adventure and two very important coaches in my life, Coach Steele and Coach Pete Hauser. Without all of you, this job wouldn’t have been possible!
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