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Splits: A World Championships Marathon Moment Captured—and Adored

A single photo illustrates all those finish line feels.

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On Monday, longtime track and field photographer Kevin Morris had been documenting the women’s World Championships Marathon from points off of Pre’s Trail in Eugene, Oregon. Focused mostly on Team USA—Sara Hall, Emma Bates, and Keira D’Amato—he eventually took his place in the massive photographer’s scrum at the finish line, somewhere near the back, but in the middle.

“We laughed as we waited that there was at least one photographer for every runner in the race, as the field was small and the photo pool was large,” Morris told me in an email. “I knew this race was developing as a special one for the USA runners, especially seeing Sara Hall at the midpoint, smiling and pumping her arms as if rallying the spectators to raise the roof. She has never done this before in a race I had seen her in, so I knew she was in good form.”

Gotytom Gebreslase of Ethiopia arrived first in a world championships record of 2:18:11, followed by Judith Korir of Kenya (2:18:20) and Lonah Chemtai Salpeter (2:20:18).

Two minutes passed, then Hall, 39, came in fifth (2:22:10). She immediately turned around to find her teammates—and she didn’t have to wait long. Bates, 30, was seventh in a personal best, 2:23:18, followed by D’Amato, 37, in eighth (2:23:34). All three women placing in the top 10 in the world was something to celebrate.

“When Emma Bates came in and gave Hall a huge hug, I thought perhaps I should be ready for Keira D’Amato, who I knew was close,” Morris says. “As soon as I saw Sara and Emma raising their arms I just tried my best to find Keira in between them…I just hoped the confluence of movement would work in my favor, and to be truthful, I only got a couple of frames where Keira was sharp and framed in the middle.”

Morris captured Hall and Bates raising their arms, cheering D’Amato in, while D’Amato ran to embrace them at the finish line. The image instantly captured the attention of fans across the country.

“It wasn’t until I was back at my dorm that I was able to see if I got what I had hoped was a unique image,” Morris says.

It wasn’t the typical finish line photo, to be sure. But why did it speak to so many people? Hall said in a text message a few days later that it “embodies to me that it’s possible to be genuinely happy for and inspired by your competitors.”

“The first thought after crossing the line was to turn around and celebrate each other’s performances and feel a sense of collective success, to be able to have a dominant performance as a team on home soil,” Hall says.

As the image made its rounds on Instagram and Twitter, many runners found their own meaning in it: “Women supporting women” was a common refrain. Former NCAA champ and sports historian Victoria Jackson tweeted, “Hang it in the Louvre!” A few used the hashtag #SquadGoals. Another simply stated, “I want this vibe for my entire life.”

After Molly Seidel withdrew from the marathon due to injury, D’Amato had about two weeks to prepare for the 26.2 miles. She recalled those last few seconds of her race during a phone call, describing the scene as the ultimate show of respect for each other.

“To see Sara and Emma waiting there, I really felt like we were such a team,” she says. “For me, that wasn’t my best race ever, but I was so proud to be finishing and doing the best I could that day. Sara and Emma were so supportive and encouraging…we’re all leveling up. Sara finished a minute before me. She could have gotten her water and walked away, but she waited for her team and pulled us to the finish line. It was so powerful having them pull me in.”

Marathon finish lines on their own are joyous and emotional places for every runner. Whether it’s a victory, a personal best, or just the end of a grueling effort, we’re all happy on some level to finish a long and difficult thing. The photo captured the ideal scenario: three women, proud of their performances, connected as a team, and authentic in their friendship. It’s a genuine display of camaraderie—and maybe that’s why it’s also so touching. You don’t have to be a world-class athlete to appreciate those “vibes.”

During the past few years it’s been easy to lose the sense of community, belonging, and friendship that our shared interest in running creates. The “finish line feels” were gone for so long, some of us had forgotten that those few seconds can represent a lot, no matter what the results—a confidence boost, the springboard for new goals, a mission accomplished, an opportunity to encourage somebody else, or just a reason to smile.

“I knew, at least for me, that this was one of those special moments that don’t often happen,” Morris says.

Lucky for us, it lives on—a visual reminder that those fleeting moments can create lasting legacies on the world stage and beyond.