In honor of #NationalTattooDay we asked the Fleet Feet Nashville team about the motivation behind their run-influenced ink.
By: Amy Owsley
Jared is the manager of Orange Theory Green Hills, but before that he helped build the reputation of Fleet Feet as one of the “most tatted up staff” of any running store. He jokes that he had to “beg them” to hire him because they couldn’t believe he would leave his successful career in music… But, he won and for the next six years he went from touring on the road laying down sick basslines to helping connect people with what they needed to hit the road (and trails) running.
His love for exploring Nashville’s trails led him to start up Fleet Feet’s Trail Mixers and Ultra Dirt Bag training programs. In fact, it was on the Red Trail at Percy Warner Park running with good friend and tattoo artist, Ian White of Safe House Tattoo Studio, that Jared got the idea for one of his favorite tats.
After passing by a tree marked with a Red Trail blaze Jared said, “I should get that tattooed on my arm!” Ian replied, “Let’s do it.” Now, even though a knee injury holds him to shorter distances than back in his trail-ultra days, Jared says that tattoo reminds him of all the good times he’s had out at Percy.
Jared’s collected 10 tattoos over the past decade, some he loves and a few he’s had covered (#wolfwithadreamcatcher), still he’s telling himself he’ll stop once his arm sleeves are complete. He wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s addictive, just that he’s one of those people who enjoy the process. Yes, it’s painful and the “healing sucks,” but with each tattoo he has a visual of how his journey is evolving. It’s kind of like they are a blaze, in and of themselves, marking the path he’s taken through life; and, who knows what amazing tat-worthy things may lie ahead?
Mariah Summers is not a chemist or a pharmacist, although you wouldn’t be the first to think so after seeing her highly technical ink. When asked, she just smiles and says, “No, I’m just a nerdy runner!” Then, her favorite thing happens – she gets to talk to people about running! Laid out like a geometric blueprint on her right inner forearm is the molecular structure of Met-enkephalin which is linked to the infamous Runner’s High.
“It symbolizes the reason I run,” she says. “Sometimes it’s not until after I finish a particularly difficult run, where nothing feels good. Then I get that awesome feeling knowing I pushed away the negative thoughts and made it through! Sometimes it’s during one of those runs where you feel like you’re flying and the whole run is a high.”
Known to have a spontaneous streak, once Mariah got it in her mind that she wanted the Runner’s High tattoo, she ran with it! (Pun totally intended.) It’s a great conversation starter when she’s at Fleet Feet Nashville keeping up with all things inventory. It also makes for a great photo op while out motivating trail newbies as one of the coaches for Fleet Feet’s Ultra Dirtbags.
“Running has the ability to bring you up no matter how down you are!” adds Mariah. “My first tattoo was in 2006, and it wasn’t until 10 years later that I was passionate enough about something to get it permanently tattooed on my body.”
A native of Michigan, Mariah and her husband moved a lot while he was serving in the Army. Running was her constant – getting her out to explore her community. Through her running experiences, high and low, she now has friends all over and she’s grateful for the memories and new adventures still to come.
Anyone who has ever met Alex will agree that his energy and positivity are infectious. These traits are just a few of the reasons he rocks in his role of overseeing the customer experience at all three Fleet Feet stores (Nashville, Green Hills, and Hendersonville).
“Running helps make me the best version of myself so I can help others achieve the same,” he says in explaining his motivation for the sport. “The vast majority of my runs aren’t perfect, but I still choose to believe that the perfect run exists.”
This belief was the catalyst for a tattoo that serves as a reminder when the going gets rough. He has the words “Believe in the Perfect Run” written on his inner forearm. Originally from Chicago, IL where the phrase, “Running against the wind.” can seem like an understatement, Alex has seen his share of challenging runs. But he realized that despite “feeling like junk” or struggling, he would still choose to put one foot in front of the other. He had faith that he could feel amazing. It was at that moment that he recognized running is the best metaphor for life.
He opted to design his tattoo art using his own handwriting over someone else’s or a specific font, because it symbolized ownership over the concept. He felt deeply connected to this idea and wanted to feel like he had just written on his body himself.
“I think most runners agree that running helps make better people,” he admits. Still, it can be hard to stick with it. Having a constant affirmation for his pursuit of running perfection, this simple tattoo, has made all the difference and it likely won’t be his last. “I think getting tatted is addictive and I definitely plan on getting more in the future.”
Having endured a good bit of pain to finish his first 100-mile race, Dan Williams figured celebrating by way of a needle and ink was somehow apropos. After besting over 24 hours of steep uphills and downhills at an altitude of nearly two miles for most of the race, sitting for a tattoo was nothing.
“My tattoo is in honor of completing Run Rabbit Run 100 in Colorado,” says the Brentwood, TN native. “I never thought I would get a tattoo but after completing a milestone moment in my life, something I never thought I could do, I wanted to commemorate it.”
The mountain scene depicted across Dan’s upper arm has a hidden meaning reflected in its eye-catching design by Ian White at Safe House Tattoo in Nashville. A closer look at the profile of the mountain range reveals the actual race elevation profile!
"I wanted to have [art] that is beautiful and shows my love for the outdoors while also integrating something from the race,”Dan explains.
“Something that will not go out of style and that would be something I am proud of.” He also made a point to choose a location that he could cover easily if he had to, although as Marketing Director for Fleet Feet Nashville he’s just one of many in a colorful tribe of tattooees.
Like many who walk through Fleet Feet’s doors, Dan finds motivation to run in expanding his limits and unleashing his potential. He’s learned a few tough lessons through his runs, but it’s also revealed qualities about himself that he otherwise may have never known. Though it may mean suffering through a little pain now and then, he feels he’s stronger, mentally, physically and emotionally, for it.