From medals to tattoos, Permanently commemorating your run

Religion, politics, diet and now the requirement for race medals has been added to the list of things you don’t talk about at a dinner table filled with runners.

It’s a hot topic that gets just as many passionate opinions on the Facebook groups as the carbs v fats debate.

On one hand are the people who say they don’t care about race medals, they just throw them in a box when they get home and don’t think about them again and would like them to be an optional extra at registration or replaced with something useful like a t-shirt, on the other hand are the equally passionate people who say it’s a symbol of months (sometimes years) worth of hard work and display them proudly in their homes, offices or gyms.

Somewhere in the middle are people who say token medals are cheap and bad for the environment. I’m pretty sure single use gel wrappers, baggies and cups are bigger mountains to climb at this point but I respect their argument as well.

Here’s where I sit on the fence, almost 10 years worth of race medals, from my first half marathon to my longest race, representing days I cried, squealed with joy, lost toenails, kissed the bitumen on purpose, kissed the bitumen by accident and much more.

Safe to say I am “team token medal”. I love them and Im not afraid or ashamed to admit that I would consider running a race or not running a race based on its finishers medal.

Actually there is a charity run in Geelong this weekend, which I’d sign up for if it had a medal and another in the bush which is much more up my alley but it’s over $100 and all you get is well, a marked course and public liability insurance. That one isn’t even for charity.

But I’m also a team race tattoo. Not the Ironman tattoo that looks as original as an 80’s bluebird (sorry if you have one, I’m not belittling your achievement, just the originality of your tattoo!)

I’ve been getting tattoos since I was 18 years old. Most of them are not cute. One I got whilst travelling alone overseas in a slightly inebriated state and depending on how you tilt your head could be a flower, a dragon or a random black squiggle.

I got my first running related tattoo in 2016 to commemorate my biggest running achievement to date, the DisneyWorld Dopey Challenge. The Dopey challenge ran over 4 days at Disney World in Florida in January.

The first race starts on Thursday morning at an ungodly hour. No shit, I think we were done by 5am! The Thursday morning is a 5km, Friday morning a 10km, Saturday a half marathon and Sunday a full marathon. The idea is that each race goes through a different park at Disney World (yes Disney World has 8 different parks culminating in the marathon which goes through Magic Kingdom as the park is open allowing runners to take pictures with all sorts of Disney Characters and ride on the rides mid marathon.

To date it is also the strangest running event I’ve ever taken part in. People were dressed up, some people walked it, the start line of each race had fire works, the expo was insane, the medals are the biggest I’ve ever received, it was just mental.

Which led me to my first “running” tattoo, Dopey.

He’s inside my left ankle and that’s an Australian $2 coin next to it. He’s teeny tiny and done my the amazing Amelia at Berserk Tattoos in Heidelberg (@amzkelso on Insta!)

I waited a little while to get my next running tattoo, this time after finishing the Tarawera 100km in February 2017.

This time I let Amelia design it. I sent her a race picture of Tarawera. I wanted her to capture the spirit of the environment and incorporate the trail unicorn.

This is the picture I sent her and told her all about the incredible lakes and green Forrest that is the area of Rotorua.

Here is my trail unicorn.

I’m a bit particular about which races I commemorate with tattoos. There isn’t one for my first half marathon or marathon or the marathon we got married at (maybe one day though). I’ve done some amazing races were I met some awesome people.

My favourite local race is AfterGlow trail half marathon followed closely behind by the new Portland 3 Bays trail but no tattoos for them.

I was probably 5km in to the Old Ghost Ultra when I knew this was a race that would change me and my life, that would stand out when people asked me about the best days in my life and the best places I’ve been and things I’ve done.

I hadn’t even made it home to Melbourne from Nz when I had started sending emails and ideas to tattooists.

I was stoked to find Oxel tattoo who was doing a limited run at Fine Line Tattoos in Richmond.

I took him in a picture I took at Heavens Door, one of the views on the Old Ghost Road. He gratuitously put it on my arm. People have commented that it looks like a transfer! Im taking that as a compliment.

What’s next? Who knows, let’s see where life and running will take me. Definitely not to a race without a medal!

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