Why I Won’t Get a Running Tattoo

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My sister tells me that my husband is at a tattoo parlor—that he checked in on Facebook to a place in Austin, Texas, that she says “seems sketch kinda.” I recognize what he’s as much as. For months, he’s been speaking approximately getting phrases inscribed on his thigh that communicate to his runner-self.

Bryan is a trail runner, an aspiring a hundred-mile finisher who’s acquainted with lining up for 50Ks next to the ink-encumbered genus who seem to predominate the trail and extremely network. He says an increasing number of runners—on dust and the road—are becoming linked with race instances, wings, a spirit animal, a mantra. I’ve observed the identical.

I am not one of these folks who hate tattoos for moral or non-secular reasons. I admittedly have a few of my own (a black move, a bohemian solar, and a
bubblegum-colored coronary heart, all received earlier than criminal age and representing elements of my emerging identity). When I see the phrases “miles to head” written across someone’s ankle, now and again I nod, knowledge. If I word a “3:40:03” on someone’s wrist, I understand that’s the time they need to overcome, and envy their boldness.

But it’s also—to borrow a word from my sister—kind of cartoon.

I confess to her that I’m not sure the popularity of strolling tattoos is a superb fashion; that I recognize the choice to outwardly show who you inwardly sense you are or need to be. But, you realize… tattoos are for all time and a few human beings, walking won’t be.

 

“So?” she says. She’s informal approximately body art. Pictures cover her ribs: a UFO, a toddler protecting a machine gun. She says they don’t have deeper meaning due to the fact she believes (for now), nothing means whatever.

But jogging—at least to us runners—does suggest something. And I assume my dismay about walking tattoos is rooted in that fact. And in mortality. What takes place if one day our frame without a doubt can’t do what our mind (or soul) needs it to, and we must surrender the component we loved and cherished? If going for walks is a lot part of you that you permit inky needles to dig beneath your skin to mark you for existence, then what happens while you cannot run anymore? Who are you if not a runner?

I ask a pal, a person with a rabbit on his thigh, to tell me why he got the tattoo (because he turned into constantly in advance of the human beings he became strolling with, and it earned him the nickname Hare), after which to tell me what’s going to appear whilst he can’t run anymore—what might the tattoo suggest then?

“Oh, I’d be accomplished,” he says. “My harsh however very actual mantra is ‘Run ’til dying.’” (Sidenote: This is the maximum steel component any runner has ever said.) “But if I did must prevent,” he says, “the hare could be a satisfied reminder of being wild, being out in the mountains, being free like they may be.”

Beau McCoy, a 36-12 months-antique tattoo artist and -time marathoner from Sacramento, California, agrees with my wild metallic rabbit buddy. (Interestingly, McCoy has eighty hours worth of tattoos, however, none running-related due to the fact, he says, he’s no longer hardcore enough of a runner.) “Tattoos aren’t a timeline,” he says. “They constitute you as a whole. For runners, that strength, that willpower, that’s always going to be in us.”

Could it be that I, a sterilized model of my beyond punk self, a renegade turned kombucha drinker who is going to mattress at 10 p.M. To wake up early and get five miles in, am one way or the other nevertheless the rebellion I become after I become 17? I’m no longer sure I see it, but I additionally I guess that wouldn’t be the worst element.

Bryan was given the tattoo. He says he desires to get some mountains around it, fill it in a little. I believe him older, hobbling round, perhaps the two folks the usage of each other as crutches, now not robust enough to arise stairs, let alone the mountains he as soon as climbed.

I hope that if that time comes, he sees his tattoo, “One more mile,” and still appears like a runner. I desire he recollects the times we ran together, the races he finished, and each step his legs continued.

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