Artist Blog

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© Caroline Heinecke - Master of Things, Toenails: Marathon runs and the dated fallen toenails

40.445 kilometres at the cost of 152 toenails – The quirky collection of Dietmar Hörnig

Dec 21, 2020 - Caroline Heinecke

According to legend, in 490 BC a Greek messenger ran roughly the distance of today’s Marathon to announce victory over the Persians. According to the myth, when he arrived (in Athens) he shouted “We have won” and fell down dead.

This is also the fate of Dietmar’s toenails, which have been doomed many times since his first Rennsteig run (Historical border trail in the Thuringian Forest, Germany) over 72 kilometres in 1982. Many different shoes were tested, but the result remained the same – the nails came loose from their beds. Due to the running style or incorrect lacing, in the worst case a bruise forms under his toenails. On the following day, the first signs of slight pain, which will be his companion for a week, drench the nails entirely in a deep blue.


© Caroline Heinecke - Master of Things, Toenails: Template for fallen toenails

After completion of this cosmetic modification, usually about eight pain-free weeks pass. During a 20-minute foot bath, the nail in question is lifted with a little pressure and then removed from the toe with a firm tug. The toenail says goodbye with a final stabbing pain and clears the way for its already visible successor. For Dietmar, however, this is by no means a reason to stop this sport. Regardless of whether he won or not, for him the toenails became very personal souvenirs of every race.

On sketches with the outlines of his two feet, they find their way back to their original position with a little glue and receive the respective information such as place and time of their demise as a final escort for their brave service. In 39 years and more than 40.445 kilometres of competition, 152 toenails have accumulated.

Since on average a marathon over 42 kilometres is completed in about 4.5 hours and a toenail only grows by about one millimetre per week, Dietmar should not take part in too many races in too short a time.


© Caroline Heinecke - Master of Things, Toenails: Toenails statistics
© Caroline Heinecke - Master of Things, Toenails: Dietmar Hörnig