Forty-seven-year-old Deanna Tompkins knows how to work up a sweat. She has run 15 half-marathons and two full marathons. She participates in grueling, military-based endurance events, holds a nerve-wracking position as a 911 dispatcher and tackles ambitious home renovation projects. Tompkins’ passions in life are evident in her fit and healthy body—and her body art.
Fanatical Focus and Support
“I just do a few crazier things than the ‘normal’ person,” says Tompkins. “My husband and I moved back to his hometown of Kasson in 1992, when he got out of the Air Force. He has been incredible by supporting me in all the things I do.”
After 24 years of marriage, the two share several interests, including training at CrossFit Credence and getting new tattoos. “If you include my full sleeve and my tattooed eyeliner, I have approximately 19 tattoos,” she says. “My most meaningful tattoos are ones that are family-based.”
Body art conveys her story, with expressive drawings providing insight into the things important in her life. A kangaroo and joey tattoo symbolizes a nickname she was given while pregnant with her daughter, and her wrist displays the diabetes ribbon in recognition of her daughter’s diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. She and her grown daughter have matching mother/child pendant tattoos with the colors of their birthstones. Other tattoos include a breast cancer ribbon in support of two aunts and a teenage portrait of her almost-97-year-old grandmother, which graces her shoulder.
Tompkins grew up in California and was active in numerous sports, such as synchronized swimming, volleyball and downhill skiing. After her 40th birthday—and losing 45 pounds—her interest in athletics reignited. She took up running “after hating it previously,” and her re-discovered physical activity is noted in a tattoo that includes running shoes and the numbers 13.1 (half-marathon distance in miles) and 26.2 (full marathon distance). The inspirational art is her continuous reminder to run to stay healthy and in shape.
Driven by a Dare
In 2013, Tompkins’ commitment to fitness took on a whole new meaning when several male coworkers dared her to participate in a military-based, team building event called GORUCK. Led by the military Special Forces Cadre, the endurance experience requires participants to carry a rucksack loaded with four to six bricks, each weighing 20 to 30 pounds. It’s intended to bridge the gap between the civilians and the military.
Fittingly, a few of her tattoos are based on GORUCK experiences. “Empowering” is how she describes her first event. “After proclaiming I’d never do another one, I did four more in 2014, including a back-to-back one with all girls in Miami,” she says. “I have two planned for 2015.”
The same year she also participated in a “ruck, walk or run” fundraiser for the Green Beret Foundation, an organization that provides support to the wounded, their families and the families of the fallen. The event was created by members of the GORUCK community and raised over $45,000. “That original foundation is the basis of our current fundraiser, Racing for Valor (racing4valor.org), which is a nonprofit organization also raising money for the Green Beret Foundation and other military-based foundations,” says Tompkins.
Camaraderie and Career
Tompkins enjoys taking part in Chatty Chicks, a local group of women focused on fitness, fun and friendship. She credits the chicks for motivating her to continue to run. “The main reason we’re called the Chatty Chicks is that we talk through all of our runs, ‘solving’ the world’s (including our own) problems one mile at a time,” she says.
Her self-discipline and mental toughness bring stability and structure to her life, both in and beyond her athletic endeavors, including in her 20-plus-year career as a 911 dispatcher. By being active, she is able to channel stress into constructive avenues, which results in being “a happier and more tolerable person.” She enjoys the excitement of the job, where she is now a trainer. She notes her schedule is “crazy,” and the work is ever-evolving. “I couldn’t imagine any other career,” she says.
Her craze for fitness spills over into her social circles and the workplace. “My friends and coworkers all think I’m a little crazy for what I do. I have lured a few friends into doing a GORUCK event—they probably will never do another, but it was an incredible honor to do one with them,” she explains.
When she’s not lugging bricks in a backpack, running many miles or getting inked, Tompkins and her husband enjoy home improvement projects. They’ve remodeled their basement and built a shed in their backyard. When her husband was deployed in 2009, Tompkins and her friends installed an in-ground sprinkler system and landscaped the backyard. A few years later, she and friends renovated her home’s bathroom vanities.
“This past winter, during his last deployment, I completely remodeled our master bathroom,” she says. “All of the projects I’ve done while my husband has been deployed have been, more or less, surprises for him.”
Reaping the Rewards
While most of us will never take on activities as challenging and extreme as Tompkins, there are benefits and lessons to be learned about building health and character and achieving success and support in all we do. But perhaps the greatest reward earned is not a medal or a patch. “My daughter, although she doesn’t do these crazy things with me, says she’s very proud of me,” beams Tompkins.
Her world and her body are her prize canvases. Tompkins’ colorful tattoo sleeve includes two pin-up girls that are surrounded by various smaller tattoos in the “old-school/Sailor-Jerry” style. Her largest tattoo, based on the facial features of Sophia Loren, is a masterpiece in itself.
Deanna Tompkins contemplates her next physical challenge—and another tattoo. Maybe a little crazy but true…her dream of more continues.Trish Amundson is a Rochester-area freelance writer (with only tattooed eyeliner).