Nick Symmonds for Runner’s World

March 13, 2013 12:49 pm

In early February Runner’s World asked me to pack my bags and head to San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Eighteen hours later I was walking off a 16-seater airplane in a big town just north of Mexico City. I was there to photograph Olympic runner Nick Symmonds, an American who spent most of January and February in San Luis Potosi training at a high altitude, something he couldn’t do in the States.

The article, “That Pre Thing,” is in the magazine’s April issue. Steve Prefontaine was a runner in the seventies who revolutionized the sport, and he’s widely credited as inspiring the seventies’ running boom. His coach was Bill Bowerman, the co-founder of Nike. Many compare Symmonds to Prefontaine; they both possess incredible charm and an outspoken nature.

But Symmonds is famous for more than just his similarity to Prefontaine and incredible speed. Below is an excerpt from Wikipedia about an incident that happened last summer at the London Olympics.

Symmonds is rebelling against what he considers absurdly strict rules restricting athlete’s ability to market themselves. For the 2012 season, he auctioned off space on his left arm for a temporary tattoo to advertise a sponsor. The winning bidder was Milwaukee advertising agency, Hanson Dodge Creative, which paid $11,000 for the space to advertise their Twitter handle. During restricted competitions like the Olympic Trials and Olympics, Symmonds is required to cover up the tattoo with white tape, which actually draws attention to the taboo advertising underneath. Symmonds is not the first track athlete to do this, Olympic silver medalist Adam Nelson actively sold space on his shirt during the 2005 season (when he won the IAAF World Championships). It is a common phenomenon in Boxing.

“I’ve never had a problem speaking out about something that bothers me. The biggest thing that rubs me the wrong way is that governing bodies want to control the space I feel I should control.”

Below are some of the pictures I took that day. Special thanks to photo editor Michele Ervin.

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