Some people are naturally blessed with a love of exercise. They love when their hearts race, they love to put in hard work, they crave that high of pushing yourself to the limit and they are deeply driven by the results they see after routine workouts. Other people need to get a little more creative in terms of their motivation to break a sweat. But hey, whatever it takes to get people moving. And this runner (slash artist) is creating gorgeous artwork and elaborate designs using nothing but his workout route and a user-friendly running application.
Meet Lenny Maughan, a San Francisco-based runner who has been turning his routes into art by choosing paths that look like beautiful illustrations when viewed on a running map. He creates unique, breathtaking, and extremely intricate designs and shapes simply by running on a specific route and mapping out that path on a running app so that it creates his intended image. It sounds really complicated. As if running didn’t require enough effort just to put one foot in front of the other for an extended period of time, and as if mapping out a safe, scenic and appropriately challenging route didn’t require enough effort, Maughan has taken the task to a new level.
But if you ask him, it’s not nearly as hard as it may sound.
It all began in 2015 with his desire to map out the Vulcan hand gesture from Star Trek after the death of Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock. “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.” His artwork often begins first with a map, then a drawing, and then he actually runs the route he mapped out so that it is tracked on the Strava app [https://www.strava.com], where others can enjoy the fruits of his labors. Some of his runs are shorter and therefore less detailed and less complicated images. Others require a lot more time, effort and mileage such as his recent work of Frida Kahlo, which required a whopping 28.9-mile run. Note to those who are not into running or who are unaware, that’s longer than a full marathon, and it took Maughan over six hours to complete.
Think of his work as an Etch-a-Sketch on steroids, but that requires you to run long distances rather than twist a couple of dials. His work takes several iterations and various versions of sketches before the actual running begins. And if he’s lucky, it works. Maughan describes his process as a literal physical labor, creating art using “my sweat as my brush and the streets as my canvas.”
Maughan has lived in San Francisco for over 20 years, and while he always thought he was destined to be an artist, he never thought he would communicate his passion through his running. This project is a way for him to make the streets of San Fran his own, and to connect with other runners in a new and creative way. His finished illustrations are certainly something to behold — they take your breath away — and we’re willing to bet that the many (many) miles he runs to create his masterpieces would also leave you breathless.