a feature on running tattoos for Like the Wind
The smell of nervous sweat on skin, a dull throb during a two-hour session, low sugar levels, that weird feeling of euphoria when it’s over and the subsequent kick of adrenalin that can often become addictive.
The physiological effects of getting a tattoo and going for a run are seemingly similar. One can also draw parallels between the outcomes: once a marathoner, always a marathoner — in the same way, a tattoo will last a lifetime. With both comes a significant commitment. So I ask why? Is there a reason why people give up their hours to run? Is there a reason why some choose to be indelibly marked? And is there a commonality between tattoos and running beyond the physical?
For some, there is a misconception that tattoos are aesthetic, to be observed, a trend, for fashion, a flight of fancy. For others, for runners, they are symbols, icons, landmarks and reminders of why they run and who they are. Behind each runners’ tattoos, there is a story — as there is a story behind their running. They are identifiers and help shape them as a person. Body art proudly on display alongside the post- race medal. Mementos, memories and moments collected.
Here are a few of those we featured in Issue #10
“I am from Paris and live in London. My first tattoo is the logo for my crew in London — Run Dem Crew’s running man — holding an upside down Eiffel Tower — the logo of my other crew, Paris Run Club — as an Olympic flame. They are the reason I took up running and they changed my life for the better. “You don’t win silver, you lose gold” are words used by a mentor, Charlie, in one of his songs and they describe my race day motto perfectly. Trying isn’t enough; being the best you can be is the only possible result. The “+” and “-” on my legs are my way of keeping strong, they hold my power. The IronMan logo in the colours of the French flag I had done after my first IronMan in my home country — it had to be engraved on my body!”
“Not all of my tattoos have a meaning. Some of them are for fun, because of my passion for tattoo art. But some of them are significant to me. I never thought I would tattoo my legs, because I didn’t like them. I always used to cover them with long dresses, leggings, jeans, everything in L or XXL. But since running, I slowly regained confidence in my body. The word ‘PRESENT’ was my first real running tattoo. I now like my legs, no body shaming anymore. I got faster, distances got longer. A kind of meditation, because running is so much a mental thing and it is so important to stay in the here and now. Running has made me stronger in so many ways, how I interact with people, remember to focus on the self and be ‘present’.”
“I got my first ever tattoo one year after founding “Run Pack” with friends Kathi and Flo. We all decided to get our logo — a “bear-dog” designed by a friend, Björn. For us it was a statement of how important our running family had become. I got the RUN! tattoos [see above] on my legs after completing my first marathon in Berlin. I wanted something that reminded me of that marathon achievement. That constantly pushes me when I look down. I designed them to be upside down so I can always read them while running; when having a tough time at 37km, or even while being lazy on the couch! They turned out to be a pretty bold statement. For bold adventures.”
I was touched by the meaning that running brought to the lives of our contributors. Some of their stories were funny, some were sad. Some up-lifting. All enlightening.
Every tattoo and story we featured in Issue #10 showed purpose; a reminder of life and why we are here. They demonstrate that runners quite literally wear their hearts on their sleeves (and shorts, and shoes, and everywhere else). Living, breathing examples of #WhyWeRun. Thank you to all who offered their stories. You are all totally rad.
Originally published in www.likethewindmagazine.com on September 30, 2016.