The art of running…and running routes

The art of running…and running routes
Portrait of Frida Kahlo by Lenny Maughan. Courtesy Lenny Maughan/Strava.
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‘When I was a kid everyone thought I’d be an artist when I grew up – I was always drawing things,’ said Lenny Maughan in an interview with The Guardian. Reading that, though, you might not expect the medium he’s most into at the moment: running. That’s right, instead of a pen or brush, Maughan’s biggest artists tools at the moment are a map, a running app, and his running shoes.

Like many others, Maughan realized that through the run-tracking app he uses, Strava, his running routes were no longer just the best way to get in a few miles. Instead, they could begin to form shapes. The images that emerged were ‘kind of like a Rorschach test,’ said Maughan. But he took it one step further than the typical, and usually crude, drawings people aim for on their jogs. So far, he’s made more than 50 drawings while running around San Francisco, but one of his most recent depictions of Frida Kahlo’s famous portrait made him Reddit famous.

The portrait was a difficult one, one that took 28.9 miles to realize, too, but he started with more rudimentary drawings, if you will. Maughan began by creating the Vulcan hand sign of Star Trek fame after Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock, died in 2015. ‘I just printed out a paper map and sketched a hand shape along Market Street and the other fingers, thumb and wrist came pretty easily.’ He then moved onto creating an abstracted television set and a massive Bat Signal. He quickly found that the key to getting in the details was to add size. For many, that would mean hours and hours pounding the pavement but Maughan’s Kahlo only took him six hours and eight minutes.

Maughan’s designs vary but often find inspiration in the city, which he’s called home for more than two decades. He has created the outline of California in the city, paid homage to Jerry Garcia (guitarist for the Grateful Dead), and even recognizing the first responders to the wildfires that have ravaged parts of California by creating a firefighter’s helmet and axe. While there tends to be a recurring theme of things related to San Francisco, Maughan’s main goal is to create images that are recognizable to all. Those have included a heart, a taco, the Starship Enterprise, a hand holding a pair of chopsticks, and even a self-portrait of him running.

After he created his portrait of Kahlo, a friend shared the work on Reddit and the image went viral and made local headlines. While his technique and medium aren’t exactly the easiest or the most common, they make you consider the routes you walk every day or walk on your morning run. So maybe give it a go the next time you head out for a couple – or even 28 – miles.