The Ironman Tattoo

The coveted Ironman tattoo. You see them all the time. Its a badge of honor among triathletes. It says – I did an Ironman. I’m a bad ass. Respect.

Ironman Tattoo

The famous M-Dot Ironman Tattoo

Ironman Tattoo Etiquette

There is much debate around the proper etiquette on getting a Ironman tattoo. While there is no official rules published by World Triathlon Corporation, the promoters of the Ironman triathlon races, there is generally accepted etiquette in the triathlon community.

Can I get a Ironman Tattoo while training?

No. I was out at a Monday night Running for Brews run where I met a women who had the infamous M-Dot logo tattooed on the back of her neck. Being a fellow triathlete in awe of Ironman badasses, I asked her about her race. She never did the race. She was training for a full Ironman race and got injured. Never completed the race. This is a total FAIL.

Sorry, you need to actually do the race to earn the Ironman tattoo. Training for an Ironman race does not count!

Can I get a Ironman Tattoo for a DNF?

Again, no. DNF’s suck. Come back for another race and earn your Ironman Tattoo.

Can I get an Ironman Tattoo for being in a Ironman Relay team?

No. You have not earned the coveted M-Dot Ironman Tattoo.

Feel the need for ink? Go with your distance. 13.1, 26.2. Maybe the race date, name. Be creative.

If you feel like you’ve earned ink. Go for it. But you have not earned the Ironman Tattoo. No M-Dot tattoo for you!

What if the swim was cancelled?

This year WTC cancelled the swim portion of the Florida Ironman race. So, the Ironman triathlon became a duathlon.

The people who did the race still trained. Still biked the 112 miles, Still ran the 26.2 miles. They showed up prepared to run a triathlon and due to unsafe weather conditions had to run a duathlon.

This is kind of a grey area. I’m leaning towards no. But its not a real strong no.

Can I get a Ironman Tattoo for a non-Ironman sanctioned race?

You did the distance, but not an Ironman triathlon. The M-Dot Ironman logo is a world famous logo of the World Triathlon Corporation. If you did not do one of their races, you don’t deserve the logo.

Get a ink related to the race that you did do instead. But no Ironman Tattoo for you.

Can I get a Ironman Tattoo for a Ironman 70.3?

Now this is a question that is hotly debated. There are purists who feel strongly you must complete a full Ironman to get the Ironman Tattoo. Period, end of debate. They feel you must do a full Ironman 140.6 to earn the coveted M dot Ironman Tattoo. However, others feel a Ironman 70.3 is worthy some Ironman ink.

I believe if you want the M-Dot Ironman Tattoo, yes you do need to do a full Ironman race.

However, I also feel the Ironman 70.3 distance is worthy of ink. If you want ink for a Ironman 70.3 race, your tattoo needs to reflect that it was a Ironman 70.3. Just the M-Dot Ironman tattoo says “I did an Ironman”. No, you have not. You did an Ironman 70.3,  also affectionately known as a ‘half Ironman’.

Here is a good example of a Ironman 70.3 tattoo.

Ironman 70.3

While this is a great Ironman Tattoo, the one problem I have with this is, what if you do a full Ironman someday? There is no undoing the 70.3.

But, you could do something like this tattoo. I suspect this guy did a Ironman 70.3 and later completed a full Ironman race.

Ironman Tattoo with 70.3 and 140.6

Ironman Tattoo with 70.3 and 140.6

Here is another take on the Ironman 70.3 tattoo. This approach, I didn’t care for much. A lot of people won’t get it. Half a M-Dot?

half ironman tattoo

Or you can go with a half full M-Dot. Cute. Kind of makes you think a little bit to get it.

Half full Ironman Tattoo

I like the approach of these last two Ironman Tattoos because should they do a full Ironman race someday, the tattoo can get updated. The question you need to ask yourself is if you expect to do a full Ironman, do you want your Ironman Tattoo to reflect your Ironman 70.3 races?

Ironman Tattoo Tips

The Classic M-Dot Ironman Tattoo

Some people may want to go with just the classic M-Dot Ironman logo for their tattoo.

Here is an example of the classic M-Dot Ironman Tattoo.

The Classic M-Dot Ironman Tattoo

The Classic M-Dot Ironman Tattoo

The above tattoo does not have an outline. Most people choose to get an outline done on their Ironman tattoo. I prefer the outline myself, but this is just my own personal preference.  I feel it adds a nice contrast to the tattoo.

Here is a great example of a Ironman tattoo with an outline.

M-Dot Ironman Tattoo with outline

M-Dot Ironman Tattoo with outline

Customizing the Ironman Tattoo

This is your tattoo. There is no right or wrong. (well, assuming you HAVE earned it!) The M-Dot logo of the Ironman triathlon series is a highly recognizable logo. Which means you can take a lot of liberty with the art for your tattoo! (Please don’t sue me WTC!!!)

Bad Ass Ironman tattoo

Bad Ass Ironman tattoo

Very cool Ironman Tattoo

Very cool Ironman Tattoo

As you can see, the only limitation is your own creativity! There is a lot you can do with the M-Dot logo.

Mashup of Ironman Tattoos

Mashup of Ironman Tattoos

My Take on the Ironman Tattoo

The Augusta Ironman 70.3 was a very challenging race for me. I pushed my own limits like I never have before. Afterwards, I felt I had earned the Ironman tattoo ink. Or maybe I just had Ironman Tattoo envy after seeing so many Ironman tattoos on the course at Augusta.

Here is my freshly inked Ironman Tattoo.

JTs Ironman Tattoo

JTs Ironman Tattoo

I chose to have the Ironman Tattoo placed on the back of my right calf. I came up with this design myself. I of course googled other Ironman Tattoo images for inspiration. The swim, bike, run icons are also from a google search. The arrangement was my idea.

I decided to place 70.3 in the dot of the M to reflect I had only done a Ironman 70.3 race. I’m shooting for one more Ironman 70.3 in 2015, then hope to complete a full Ironman in 2016. When I do complete a full Ironman race, I will fill in the dot on my Ironman Tattoo.

Although, my friend wants me to get another Ironman tattoo on my left calf when I complete a full Ironman race.

Are two Ironman Tattoos too much???

Living with an Ironman Tattoo

I’ve had my Ironman Tattoo ink for about 10 months now. I live in Florida, thus shorts are pretty much standard attire. People see my Ironman Tattoo and comment on it a lot. At random times too. Checkout on at the store, just walking my dog down the street. I recently did the Napa to Sonoma half marathon. I received at least a half dozen comments on my Ironman Tattoo.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. An Ironman 70.3 or full Ironman is no kids game. Finishing an Ironman distance triathlon is an accomplishment to be proud of. If you’re on the fence about getting some Ironman ink, just do it!

John has been racing triathlons since 2007. He has completed more sprints than he can remember, a handful of International distance triathlons and two Ironman 70.3 races. He is leading a Ragnar team to Key West in February 2015, and is registered to race the Augusta Ironman 70.3 race again in September 2015.

Leave a Reply

  1. Friend and I competed in 31 IMs and 6 Hawai’i IMs over 18 years…and didn’t feel the need for a tatt….get your hand off it guys!!

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  3. the ironman race is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run. if you complete that distance in a non-sanctioned race you earned the m-dot as it represents the race, not how much money you were willing to pay to enter a race.. Some courses, like the Great Floridian, are tougher than most Ironman sanctioned races.

  4. If, by your logic, you can only get the M-Dot from a WTC sponsored race, and they cancel the swim at that WTC race, but still call you an Ironman as you cross the finish line…you still earned the tattoo.

    Swim 2.4 in your local pool, ride 112 in your trainer or around the block, then go run 26.2 around your block. Do it all in 17 hours. Boring as hell, but…you did the distance.

  5. Hi guys.

    I’m definitely getting a Ironman tattoo after my Ironman 70.3 I’m doing on the 29/01/17, as they describe it as the 3rd most difficult half Ironman in the world(Buffalo city)..

    After some pro’s said,they would rather do any full Ironman before doing the half Ironman in East London.

    So I definitely think I will deserve to get a Ironman tattoo.



  6. I did the Lake Steven’s 70.3 I got an MDOT tattoo…but did not get a traditional mdot. Mine has a green M because green or blue or the colors of my race and a Captain America shield for the dog in honor of my husband… I would not have been able to do the race without him

  7. I’ve literally just decided to do one today!!!

    The tattoo sealed the deal!

    I’m giving myself 16 months to train from zero to hero.

    Should be interesting 😬