Just like when you were 4 and didn’t want a bath - the group heads down Alii Drive – photo by Jay Prasuhn
Kona ’05 – Part 4; Underpants Run Blows UpRemember when there were banks but no ATM machines? Remember when there were CB radios but no cellular phones? Remember when there was coffee but no Starbucks? Remember when there were bikes but no helmets? Remember when there was Kailua-Kona but no Hawaii Ironman Triathlon? Remember when there was the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon but no Underpants Run? Yes, those were magical times when you could walk around town with your Speedo, backpack, and flip-flops on and not a worry in the world. In the first days of this event, people came from all over the world to shed their clothing and frighten the locals. That hasn’t really changed but now there’s a movement afoot to stop this practice in its tracks or, if not stop it, at least demonstrate how silly it looks. Of course we’re talking about the Kona Underpants Run.
The 9th annual edition of this event reached another milestone when the news media showed up. We’re not talking West Hawaii Today or the local NBC affiliate (though both showed up) either. No, this year was covered by the Associated Press and shown on television around the world. We don’t know much but we do know this: The 2005 Kona Underpants Run generated eighty television placements resulting in nearly seven million media impressions. Footage of the run appeared on ESPN 2’s “Cold Pizza”, “MSNBC Live” as well as the NBC affiliates in the following major markets: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Miami, Tampa, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Sacramento, Phoenix, San Diego and San Diego…and that’s just in the U.S. market. We got confirmation that the run was on CBC in Canada and in the news papers in Australia, Japan, China, and Europe. What? That’s what we said. Read it and weep. Running around in your underpants is becoming more widely known than facing the challenge of doing an Ironman – yet another sign that the apocalypse is upon us.
If you don’t know what the Underpants Run is, where have you been? The event was started in 1997 when three friends (Chris Danahy, Tim Morris, and Paul Huddle) had seen enough - had seen enough Speedos, that is. “They were everywhere”, says Danahy, a triathlete and busboy from Richmond, Virginia. “Standing in downtown Kailua-Kona you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting some Euro in his underpants”, echoed Morris, Danahy’s friend also a triathlete and model from Richmond. Paul Huddle, a former triathlete and now a lounge singer adds, “The locals weren’t happy and many of the folks in town for the race weren’t happy. We felt like some of our triathlon peers were giving our sport a bad name so we decided to take it upon ourselves to protest wearing your ‘underpants’ in public.” So, in October of ’97 on the Thursday before the race, these three renaissance men stripped down in the drive way of the King Kamehameha Hotel and set off down Alii Drive in nothing but running shoes, black socks, heart rate monitor chest straps, bad hats, and y-front white underpants giving birth to a pre-race ritual. In 2005, 300+ like minded souls joined them.
The run has grown into an underground cult event that not only raises awareness about proper public attire and courteous behavior but raises money for the local Special Olympics chapter. The “entry fee” is optional and every cent goes to West Hawaii Special Olympics. Multisports.com has t-shirts made to commemorate the event and to raise even more money for the local charity. These collector’s items are available the week before the event and on “race” day for a donation of $20.00 – again, all of which goes to the charity. Since ’97, there have been Underpants Runs in Penticton, B.C., Lake Placid, NY, and Madison, Wisconsin. Current projections estimate the Underpants Run will surpass the Ironman in #’s of participants, licensing fees, and local revenue impact by 2007. “Such growth is unheard of in this market”, said Warren Buffet when referring to some commodity at some point in his life. The founders of the event have sworn that it will remain a fund raiser in the local communities where it is held. “We’re not here to cause trouble, eh. We’re here to give back to the communities that host our sport, eh” said long time Underpants Run participant and organizer, Roch Frey – an unemployed lumberjack from Moosejaw, Saskatchewan, Canada, eh.
The run this year was attended by the usual suspects and a smattering of celebrities within the sport. Some of the notable names seen in their skivvies included the voice of the Ironman Mike Reilly, Ironman hall of famer Bob Babbitt, German pro Jurgen Zack, Roy Rogers, and an untold # of CEO’s, doctors, lawyers, and other normally responsible upstanding pillars of their respective communities. Every Underpants Run begins with the pledge. Led by Huddle and Frey, all participants recite the following:
I STATE YOUR NAME SOLEMNLY SWEAR THAT I WILL RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO WEAR THE EVIL GARMENT KNOWN COMMONLY AS: TOGS, SCUNGIES, BUN HUGGERS, PLUM SMUGGLERS, BANANA HAMMOCKS, CRACK SPLITTERS, BUTT FLOSS, SPEEDOS, ETC., ETC., ETC. OUT SIDE OF SWIMMING OR RACING.
I FURTHER PROMISE TO UPHOLD THE SANCTITY OF THE LOCAL’S HOME OF WHICH I AM A GUEST BY FREQUENTING PUBLIC PLACES IN PROPER ATTIRE, OBEYING TRAFFIC LAWS, AND BEING COURTEOUS AT ALL TIMES. THIS I PLEDGE AS AN IRONMAN – VETERAN, 1ST TIMER, OR WANNABE.
There were men, women, and children and everyone managed the 1.5-mile parade paced jog, punctuated with 5-minutes of calisthenics at the pier, in fine form. Gatorade even supplied an aid station and when the dust settled, the West Hawaii Special Olympics received a check for $3,500 to help send Big Island athletes to Oahu for the state games.
Plans for 2006 include more of the same shenanigans and perhaps even a new shirt and slogan. If you’re looking for a new experience to add to your list of life’s goals, make sure you include an Underpants Run. It might not change your life in any appreciable way but you’ll have a new appreciation for the courage, no, the lack of self-consciousness that wearing a Speedo in public requires – and you’ll never be able to run for political office.
If you’re interested in holding your own Underpants Run, please contact Paul Huddle at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Links (just google key words “Underpants Run”…