Sept. 27, 2013 -- A gym company is offering to tattoo or reimburse anyone who gets the company logo inked on their skin.
There are about 1,000 people from nine countries who have the "Running Man" logo of Anytime Fitness, which has 2,400 locations globally. The company was founded in 2002 and is based in Hastings, Minn.
Founder and CEO Chuck Runyon said the tattoo phenomenon started nine years ago at an Anytime Fitness conference in St. Paul. An owner of one of the gyms said he wanted to get the company logo tattooed on him, and Runyon said he would reimburse him.
Anyone, including employees, can now get reimbursed by the company for a logo tattoo if they submit a photo of the tattoo and describe why they wanted the tattoo. The tattoos typically cost around $100, Runyon said.
Runyon said peoples' stories are typically not about Anytime Fitness.
"It's never the same answer. It's not about the club. It's about them or some accomplishment," he said. "As much as it symbolizes the brand, it's not about us. I think they're thankful we helped them get [the tattoos], but it's really about them."
Runyon said his favorite story is of member Betty Lou Sweeney. Weighing 230 pounds, she joined Anytime Fitness and lost more than 100 pounds over 18 months with the help of a trainer. In 2011, at age 71, she set the Guinness World Record for holding the abdominal plank for 37 minutes and 58 seconds. The new record is now over three hours, set by a man in Newport, Ky.
Sweeney later got a "Running Man" tattoo while holding a plank. But her tattoo was slightly different, because she only got half of the logo on her calf, and the other half is tattooed on her trainer's leg.
Other companies have followed Anytime Fitness loyalty inking. Over a year ago, a real estate firm in Brooklyn started offering raises to employees who get a company tattoo.
At this year's annual conference, which will take place this weekend in Florida, the company invited celebrity tattoo artist Jimmy Hayden, who is a member of Anytime Fitness. Hayden's clientele includes LeBron James, Shaquille O'Neal and Keyshia Cole.
Runyon calls the company's annual conference "the Superbowl weekend for the Anytime Fitness brand."
"It's when everyone comes together as the summit of personal and professional growth and relationships, to connect person to person instead of with technology."
And of course, to get inked. He expects about 150 people to get tattooed.
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Runyon's tattoo is on his triceps.
"After hundreds of people got it, I had to step up in 2009," he said. "It's the only one I have. If I didn't have this tattoo, I probably wouldn't have any others."