The Story Behind the 2013 Running Photo Of the Year: The Alaskan Flip-Off

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February 23, 2015

As we open up to another “Photo of the Year” contest, we can tell the story of the 2013 Photo of the Year. The photo in many ways speaks for itself.

2013 Photo of the Year (Zack Johnson (flipper), Andrew Ritchie (flippee)) photo by Todd List of Todd List Photography

2013 Photo of the Year (Zack Johnson (flipper), Andrew Ritchie (flippee)) photo by Todd List of Todd List Photography

The photo was taken by LRCer Todd List of Todd List Photography. The guy in the middle is Zack Johnson. The guy on the right is Andrew Ritchie. We wrote Todd asking if he knew anything about the story of the photo and he wrote back he did. Little did we know it was a viral hit in Alaska. Todd put us in touch Zack and Andrew and their words speak for themselves.

Here’s what Zack wrote after we introduced ourselves. (We’d proud to report Zack, a guy clearly so passionate about his running, is an LRCer):

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“Familiar with, I enjoy reading up on it pretty regularly. I’m Zack, the “flipper” in the photo. Can’t believe it has gained such popularity and actually won a contest with the kind of competition that there was, hahah. I don’t mind my name being attached to it at all, feel free to brand/caption it however you please.

The race was the 2013 Alaska 10K Classic. I had set a sub 40:00 goal earlier in the summer, but 2013 saw one of the sunniest and warmest summers on record in Alaska. Therefore, I spent a lot more time basking in the sun and drinking beer than I did training. I still thought I had a shot at it, so to give myself an extra leg up I tried a new technique on race day (never a good idea): A Viso energy drink with 300mg of caffeine. The first mile is a net downhill, so I managed to come in right on pace at 6:27. My rabbit was a girl that I’d had some pretty good battles with in the past both in training and other races. After the first mile, she dropped me like a bad habit. I figured she must have been pushing it and surely would blow up before long. It wasn’t until the 5K mark that I realized I was hurting, off pace, and grossly unprepared. Right as the post-caffeine crash took hold, my good friend and roommate Andrew came trotting by. Being a 34-35 minute 10K guy, he went out at a recreational pace and ramped up for a strong finish. Nose breathing, Andrew patted me on the butt and gave what were probably some kind words of encouragement on his way passed. In massive physiological distress and gasping for air, I thought I’d let him know my opinion about the disparity in our levels of fitness, preparation, and comfort. As I hoisted the 1 finger salute, I observed (through somewhat blurred vision) our mutual friend Todd List taking pictures on the side of the course. After a brief chuckle, my attention returned to trying to oxygenate my depleted body and I staggered on to a mediocre finish. I didn’t think Todd had time to snap a picture of the playful gesture, much less capture such a seemingly furious moment where I appeared ready to kill someone with my bare hands. Needless to say, we were endlessly entertained when the photo was uploaded. I’ve been stopped around town by people I don’t even know with “oh hey you’re that guy from the picture!!” which is usually accompanied by an angry face and their best imitation of the picture.

I learned a good lesson, and have had lots of laughs. Still haven’t broken that damn 40:00 barrier…”

Andrew wrote:

“My name is Andrew Richie and I am a local runner and employee at Skinny Raven, Anchorage’s premier running store.

The race is the annual 10K Classic, one of my favorite events of the year.  I wasn’t super fit, so I decided to start the race with my then girlfriend and take it easy.  About 2 miles in I started to pick it up, drawing from the enthusiasm of the race.  At mile 3 I got really excited and started to push the pace.  I kept thinking, “I wonder who I can catch?” knowing several of my friends were just ahead.

At mile 4.5, I rolled up on Zack, my roommate.  I knew he’d been training hard for the 10K and it looked like he was having a rough day.  By this point I was in the zone, picking people off and  thinking “who’s next?” seeing our friend’s dad just ahead.  I ran by Zack and gave him a huge slap on the ass, yelling “Let’s go get Big Al!” as I passed.  Zack ended up catching Big Al (our friend’s dad).

I had no idea he’d made the gesture until later in the day when the photo went viral. I’ve known Zack since he was a kid and he’s always had a short fuse.  We all thought it was super funny and it made a huge splash on facebook.  Zack and I gained brief local celebrity status, with people stopping by the shop for the next two weeks asking for the story behind the flip.  I had a few friends email me saying “What’s that guy’s deal?” thinking we had some deeply rooted vendetta against each other.  Even now, I’ll be at an event and hear “Hey, you’re that guy who got flipped off!”  We’ve totally embraced it and even plan on putting a canvas copy above our fireplace.”

Congrats to Todd for taking the picture and Zach and Andrew for being such good sports.

Zach – LRC nation will be watching you and expecting you to get under 40 this summer.

Andrew – you are right about Skinny Raven. Any running store that has a pub run in the dead of the winter in Alaska (tomorrow night for those of you in Alaska) gets our nod of approval.

Todd – our 2014 (and first 2 months of 2015) Photo of the Year Contest is now open.

In case you missed our pro runner photo of the year from 2013. This was it:

(These 3 Really Did Race Last Year) Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Archive licensed by

(2013 Pro Runner Photo of the Year)
Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Archive licensed by

To see all the 2013 Photo of the Year Finalists click here.

To give us your 2014 Photo of the Year click here.


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