The Se­cret Life Of…

How Owen De­laney cre­ates way­marked works of art

Runner's World (UK) - - In This Issue -

the map­maker. Owen De­laney charts peo­ple’s run­ning achieve­ments

It all started af­ter I ran a 100-mile race

‘In Fe­bru­ary 2017, I ran the 100-mile Arc of At­tri­tion in Cornwall, along the South West Coast Path. As you can imag­ine, it was a bit of an ad­ven­ture, par­tic­u­larly at that time of year. I’d been do­ing a bit more art­work in the months lead­ing up to the race, so I thought in­stead of writ­ing some­thing about the race I’d do an il­lus­tra­tion of it. A map is a great way of show­ing a jour­ney like that, so I shared what I’d cre­ated on so­cial me­dia and it seemed quite pop­u­lar. Then some­one ap­proached me to do a com­mis­sion for a race they’d run, The Oner [80 miles along the Juras­sic Coast] and it all stemmed from that.’

Run­ning and draw­ing are my two pas­sions

‘I stud­ied art at school and have kept it up, on and off, through­out my life. I got into run­ning about 15 years ago, but I had never pre­vi­ously com­bined my two pas­sions. It just hap­pened through chance, re­ally.’

My style is in­flu­enced by the old greats

‘To hone down my style, I’ve re­searched old map­mak­ers and the early Ord­nance Sur­vey maps. I’ve gone as far back as Joan Blaeu, a bril­liant 17th-cen­tury Dutch map­maker. Al­though he was mainly an en­graver, his style re­ally res­onated with me. I found it was a style that could be recre­ated with pen and ink, which is how I tend to work.’

Peo­ple still want crafts­man­ship

‘Just as there’s been a boom in vinyl record sales, there’s still a de­mand for hand-drawn maps. There are a lot of prod­ucts sim­i­lar to what I’m do­ing, but they’re very au­to­mated and dig­i­tal. There’s not the same crafts­man­ship. There’s a place for dig­i­tal stuff, but pen and ink is my pre­ferred method.’

It’s the next best thing to run­ning a race

‘It’s in­ter­est­ing do­ing per­sonal com­mis­sions for peo­ple who’ve run epic races and hear­ing about their ex­pe­ri­ences. It gives me ex­po­sure to races I wouldn’t oth­er­wise have come across. And it’s cheaper than run­ning them your­self. I get a bit of a buzz from talk­ing to peo­ple about their races.’


Ev­ery com­mis­sion that comes in is dif­fer­ent

‘Some of the com­mis­sions I get are from peo­ple who are happy for me to in­ter­pret a route as I see fit. I might just add in the date of the race and their fin­ish time. Then there are oth­ers that are very spe­cific and per­sonal – I’ve done com­mis­sions that aren’t even of a route; they’re just of an area that’s spe­cial to some­one. The map I'm most proud of is prob­a­bly the Monarch’s Way (map one, left) – the scale of it and the story be­hind it.’

Maps are a great race me­mento

‘Com­plet­ing long-dis­tance races is an enor­mous achieve­ment, so it’s nice for peo­ple to have some­thing to hang on the wall that isn’t just a medal. Maps are great me­men­tos – they tell a story.’

My work ap­pears on T-shirts, too

‘Cen­tu­rion Run­ning [an ul­tra­ma­rathon or­gan­iser] asked me to cre­ate maps to go on its fin­isher’s T-shirts. Print­ing onto tech­ni­cal fab­rics is tricky in terms of the de­tail­ing. I did one hand-drawn map that was re­ally in­tri­cate and de­tailed. When we sent the dig­i­tal im­age to the T-shirt com­pany, they said it needed to be a bit sim­pler. I ended up do­ing those us­ing il­lus­tra­tion soft­ware on my lap­top.’

I’d like to do more over­seas races

‘The races that ap­peal to me are the ones with in­ter­est­ing ter­rain – coastal routes are good. A lot of the stuff I’ve done is Uk-based, so I’d like to do more over­seas. The Man v Horse Marathon would be great to il­lus­trate, too.’

I fi­nally have my own stu­dio to work in

‘Un­til now, I’ve been do­ing this from the kitchen ta­ble and clear­ing up when the kids come home so they can have their tea. But I re­cently moved into a new gar­den stu­dio, so I now cre­ate the maps in there.’ Check out Owen De­laney’s work: way­

3. WENDOVER WOODS 50 ‘The first map I cre­ated for Cen­tu­rion Run­ning, and the only one of its races I’ve man­aged to com­plete and earn my own fin­isher’s T-shirt.’

2. COM­RADES MARATHON ‘A map to com­mem­o­rate the awe­some achieve­ment of a 10-time fin­isher of this 56-mile race in South Africa. This added to my own mo­ti­va­tion to run this in­cred­i­ble race.’

1. THE MONARCH’S WAY ‘A joy to il­lus­trate a jour­ney of epic pro­por­tions like this one, with ev­ery­thing from biblical floods to wiz­ards and pub fights.’

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