Running a marathon is no small feat. It takes months of dedication and hours of literally pounding the pavement, often alone. In warmer weather, a runner is likely to be on the road so early that people are still heading home from the wild night before. But, for those that complete the grueling 26.2 miles, it’s hard to beat the sense of accomplishment they feel. Photographer Eddie Cohen shares a glimpse of this in his series Pain and Glory, in which he snapped pictures of NYC marathon runners before and after their race.
“I was interested in capturing that simultaneous state of exhaustion and euphoria,” Cohen tells My Modern Met in an email, “and showing what running 26.2 miles does to the physiology and psychology of a person!” His striking black and white images—the result of him sneaking into the race—feature men and women who are both tired and proud. Drenched in sweat with their hair a mess, they look as though they put their bodies through the ringer—but in the end, they get the finisher’s medal to wear around their necks and memories to last a lifetime.
While many of Cohen’s subjects look happy and relieved, others are overcome with emotion after their finish—reminding us that the distance is as much mental as it is physical. Runner Dylan Petrich had tears in his eyes after finishing the NYC marathon in an impressive three hours and 30 minutes. (The median marathon time for men is four hours and 20 minutes.) “I spotted him crying right when he finished the race,” Cohen recalls. “I ran over to give him a hug, picked him up and put him in front of the makeshift studio I created by the finish line. The expression is real.”