The M Dot is the Ironman logo that some athletes get tattooed on their bodies after completing their first Ironman. Some do it after completing more than one.
The Ironman is a 140.6-mile event, broken up into a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike, and a 26.2-mile run. I believe back in the 80s and 90s the M Dot was the symbol of the Hawaii Ironman World Championships. Now, with the creation of World Triathlon Corporation, the M Dot is used as a symbol for all World Triathlon Ironman events, not just the World Championships.
I do not have an M Dot tattoo, nor do I plan on getting one. Having qualified for my first Hawaiian Ironman World Championships in 1994, I did not even know what Ironman was at the time, and passed up the slot to go. I made it a goal to qualify again when I was 24, and achieved that goal in 1997 at the Desert Sun Half Ironman in Grand Junction Colorado. I did not feel the need to get an M Dot at that time.
When I started competing in the early 90s, Ironman North America owned five Ironman events (California, Lake Placid, Coeur d’Alene, Canada and Arizona). World Triathlon Corporation purchased Ironman North America last year, and has since developed numerous Ironman events around the world. Check out www.ironmanlive.com for a list.
WTC also purchased many half-iron distance events, now called 70.3s.
In my 23 years of competing in triathlon, I have done 13 Ironman events, seven in Hawaii, and was the Overall Female Amateur Champion on 2008. Even then, I never much considered getting an Ironman symbol tattooed on my body. Instead I purchased a gold pendent as my reminder and personal symbol of inspiration.
I was interested in getting others’ perspectives on why and where on their body they would get an M Dot tattoo. I posted the question on Facebook.
Most of those who did or plan to get the tattoo, as well as others who think it is “cool” supported the idea, commenting, “why not, it’s your body. If it means that much to you and since 140.6 is quite an accomplishment, then do it!” and “It represents something important to me, end of story. If you get one, be proud of it!! It’s a symbol of being a badass!!!”
Those who felt like they definitely earned it mentioned getting the design on their ankle, upper back, or shoulder. Others mentioned upper thigh hip area near swim suit, side of rib cage, or wrist.
Others not into the M Dot reminded me the M Dot is a logo for a commercial, for-profit business. Why put a logo on your body? “Let people know your accomplishments with your race results.” Like I always say, actions speak louder then words, in this case tattoos. For some, the 140.6 symbol is different than the M Dot logo, and more impactful.
I think my friend Chip summed it up nicely, saying “I think the answer to your question is a psychological one. First, to put one on at all means someone feels the need to wear a badge. When you become an IM, you will be an IM whether you permanently stamp a badge on your body or not. Second, size and location speaks volumes: small and indiscrete means it’s for you and a badge of pride, a reminder of great accomplishment. Large and visible suggests the need to tell others, nonverbally.”
Aside from the corporate brand aspect, I think your view here could be a generational thing. Maybe it depends how young-at-heart you are? Tattoos are much more acceptable these days. Sometimes it can be about wanting to be associated with something like a way of life and all that goes with that. At least a bumper sticker is easier to get rid of when you are no longer interested in that association.
Does the M Dot define you? What about those endurance athletes that run 50-135 miles or ride RAAM? Do they have special symbols they tattoo on themselves?
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