This was certainly the most unique Boilermaker Road Race photo journalist Nancy L. Ford has covered. She's photographed many before this one, which will be forever known as the race consumed by a pandemic, that almost didn't occur.

This year's field was the smallest Ford has covered since she shot her first Boilermaker for the Observer Dispatch in 1988. However, as you'll see in her photo gallery, there was no shortage of emotion at this year's event.

"The best thing was having a winner that was so amazed that he won (Syracuse native, Stephen Rathbun). His emotion was amazing," said Ford. "Like he couldn't even believe that he won. He gets to carry that with him for the rest of his life, that he won a Boilermaker."

Ford's journey of shooting the Boilermaker started early at the starting line on Sunday in East Utica, and then included her own race across the city speeding west across unclosed streets to the finish line in Utica's Brewery District, where she would catch inspirational snapshots of the 15K Men's Division winner Stephen Rathbun, and the 15K Women's Division winner, Savannah Boucher. Just in time.

Ford, who now owns her own photography studio in downtown Utica, has a special touch for capturing people's emotions during candid moments. Capturing emotions is her specialty and despite the different circumstances of this race, restricted to only vaccinated runners and held 3 months late, Ford found plenty of human expression.

Her photographic journey ended at the F.X. Matt Brewery, where Ford was able to snap shots of the post race party where only runners were permitted. There, she found the one part of this year's Boilermaker that was normal: the refreshing consumption of ice cold Utica Club Beer. As usual, it was free beer for all runners and despite the cooler temperatures, the beer was flowing freely as runners enjoyed the music of fan-favorites Showtime and Classified. All of this, while organizers announced their hopes for a much more normal, less exclusive, and COVID-free Boilermaker Sunday, next year in July of 2022. One could only hope.

61 Amazing Snapshots of Utica's Most Unique Boilermaker Ever

The 2021 Utica Boilermaker Road Race will go down in the history books as one of the most unique, with an all-vaccinated field running the 5K and 15K on October 10th, without elite runners, and with thousands of regular participants sitting this one out because of COVID. The excitement this year was special and exclusive and there was no shortage of it, as seen through the lens of award winning photo-journalist Nancy L. Ford of Utica. Here are 61 awesome photos featuring some of the best moments from this year's race.

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