• AP Brown

Commemorating Your Run With Ink

Finishing a big race can be an exhilarating and occasionally a truly life-changing experience. Your first half- or full marathon may qualify as such an event. An Iron Man finish certainly deserves recognition and accolades. Competing and finishing in a world-renowned race, such as the Marine Corps, NYC or Boston Marathon confers true bragging rights. Finishing an Ultramarathon, Ultra Triathlon, or another extreme endurance event demands adulation.

Races typically award participants with commemorative shirts, medals, bibs, local wine and craft beer, or all of the above. And for many runners, bling is the thing! The Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco gives each registrant a custom-designed Tiffany necklace. As wonderful as these awards may be, none offer the permanence that some runners seek. Hence the attraction of commemorating your accomplishment with ink.


Tattoos are very personal statements, and runners choose to ink themselves for very personal reasons. For some, a tattoo is both an inspirational reminder and an enduring validation of their accomplishment. When you’re questioning why you’re up before dawn for yet another training run, a glance at the tattoo on your wrist may be a just the motivation you need. For others, a tattoo is their way of sharing their experience and expressing their camaraderie with those who have run the same distance or the same race. A simple 13.1 or 26.2 on a calf or ankle is instant recognition that you’re a serious runner, and far more personal than a bumper sticker.


Running tattoos also tend to be less ostentatious than other tattoos. Minimalist tattoo designs are immensely popular, with wrists, calves and ankles being the usual sites. The tattoo itself may not even clearly indicate that it is related to running. Hermes Wings on ankles are among such ambiguous inking, as are Chinese characters and chemical compound formulas. Other tattoos are very specific in displaying the race name, date, and distance.


There’s another reason that running tattoos tend to be minimalist. Studies found the sweat rate of tattooed skin is about half that of plain skin, which can affect your running performance. For those that eschew the permanence of tattooed ink, there are temporary tattoos. You can shout out your achievements and show your personality with customizable marathon, half-marathon, and 10K temporaries that can be changed as your performance improves. There are also running mantra tattoos to keep you motivated. Some are even reflective to keep you safer when running before sunrise or after sunset.


Unlike the kiddie tattoos that disappear in a day or two, there are long-lasting temporary tattoos that are visible up to six months. For the longest lasting type, you want to go to a semi-permanent tattoo specialist trained in the use of diluted Chinese ink and that uses approved ink that is manufactured to CE (European Union) standards. Like permanent tattoos, the ink is pricked into the skin, but to a shallower depth so that the tattoo disappears by itself around 6 months after application.


A more risk-free alternative is a semi-permanent tattoo that last one month. These are henna tattoos that are deposited on the surface of the skin, the epidermis. However, black henna tattoos are not recommended due to their allergic aspect. Orange-brown henna versions are less likely to provoke and allergic response.



As with anything new, do your own research before getting your tattoo. For permanent and semi-permanent tattoos, be certain that your artist is hygienic, and the shop complies with all safety guidelines. You wouldn’t want your new tattoo to prevent you doing the very thing that you are being tattooed for – running.

As always, stay healthy and stay safe!

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