Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The Tattoo

Let me tell you about my tattoo.

Most people see the tattoo and simply associate it with a runner. Those in the know associate it with Phiedipides and the Spartathlon. Clearly, to carry the tattoo is to have finished the Spartathlon but the true meaning is in fact much deeper than that.

Just over 20 years ago I fell whilst rock climbing and broke my leg just above the right ankle. The leg was literally snapped in half and the foot hung on by just a few tendons. I was helicoptered out by the rescue team and then had emergency surgery in hospital. The doctors told me I would never run again.

Then in the 80’s the story of Phiedipides running from Athens to Sparta in 36 hours was considered impossible, nothing more than  a curious ancient anecdote blending in with Greek mythology of impossible feats and impossible creatures and gods. That is until John Fodden and his team set out to prove that it was indeed possible, and that Phiedipides did indeed run between Athens and Sparta. The rest we all know, which is now ultra-running history with the birth of the Spartathlon, the world’s greatest race.

So the real meaning of the tattoo is that nothing is impossible, neither the injury nor the feat. The only limits are those in our heads and they are only there to be broken. The tattoo is on the leg I broke, although you have to look carefully these days to see the scars. So whenever I doubt myself I only have to look and see down Phiedipides to remind me that nothing is impossible. Phiedipides will always be the myth that is to be broken.


  1. My MDS tattoo is worn with pride. No one except for a few fellow runners recognise it but for me it represents a personal triumph. Next year the plan is to qualify for Spartathlon. Success would mean a tattoo like yours. This, among other things, is motivating me. Bring it on.