After running hundreds of races over the past eight years, I still get a little nervous as time for the starting gun approaches.
I’ve never been tied in knots more before a race than Saturday. Not because of the length of the race or because of the course. Only because what I was wearing for this event – nothing.
On a dare to myself and also thinking it would make an interesting or funny column, I decided to bare it all and run the Skinnydipper 5K at Wildwood Naturist’s Resort near Decatur Saturday.
Like the brochure for the race says, there’s a lot curiosity about nudism. I admit I knew nothing about it. The last time I was naked outside, other than changing clothes quickly after a race, I was probably in diapers and don’t recall it.
Over the past week, I went back and forth trying to decide if I would follow through on this. After running the Lace Up for Leslie 5K Saturday morning, I went back to the office, gave myself a pep talk, then waited until a little more than a hour before heading out to the race.
I didn’t know how I would react upon seeing the first naked person. I didn’t have to wait long to find out as a man directing people to park stood there in his birthday suit. Immediately came the question, “Oh my, what have I got myself in to?”
After I parked near the back of the property, I made the walk past the swimming pool with people of all sizes and ages sitting there sunning without worries of tanlines to the clubhouse to register. I’m slowplaying this, keeping all my clothes on as I sign up.
Then its time to get my number and off comes the shirt. With a green marker a woman without any clothes on, draws a 172 on my chest. That answered my first question: “Where do you pin the number?”
I get a quick tour of the place, including the game room with several pool tables and past the two pools and hot tub.
After registration and my tour, I walk back out the car still wondering how I’m going to do this. I start lathering up nervously with sunblock. Then comes the moment of the truth and off comes the shorts. I’m out in broad daylight with nothing on but my running shoes and a hat.
I still have 45 minutes until the start of the run, so I decide to head back to clubhouse. I notice most people also have their name written on their chest, so I go back in where another naked woman scribbles my name by my number.
I go back outside to sit in the shade on my towel to wait. I listen to the small talk between many people, trying to take this all in. I’m amazed about how many people were talking about past races at different resorts. Believe it or not, there’s actually a series at other places around the state and region. There were also many first-time naked runners asking questions.
With about 20 minutes left before the start, I decide its time to start treating this like any other race and take a warm-up jog, which I did notice that I didn’t have running shorts on for.
Soon it’s time to stage at the starting line. I’m surprised how many people are here for this event – I’m guessing 150. I’m also amazed how after being here for hour, I’m not as uncomfortable about the number of naked people around me. To tell the truth, I only slightly noticed the fact that all these people stretching around me are flaunting what God gave them.
Other than a few women wearing sports bras, most people decided to take the lighter option at this clothing-optional event.
I’m being cautious not to get too close to anyone at the starting line. After a short time, the orders to start are given, and a wall of glistening flesh begins moving down the gravel trail.
The run quickly goes off road to a winding trail cut through the woods. The pace is a bit slower, partly because of the difficult course full of bumps and slight grades.
I settle into a comfortable pace, which coincidentally happens to be about the same as two women. I pass both around the first mile and then I encounter a major problem. Sweat has caused the sunblock on my face to drip in my eyes, and since I’m without a shirt I don’t have anything to wipe my eyes. Squinting through pain to try to make sure I don’t fall, but I keep running.
Finally I reach a water stop where I can splash water in my eyes. The pain lasts only a little while longer before I’m back up to speed and, more importantly, can see.
The pit stop puts be back behind the two women on the narrow trail. I pass one and then end up running for approximately a mile behind the other. It crosses my mind that she probably thinks I’m some kind of pervert running behind her.
I pass her and then pick up my pace a bit as the course keeps winding through the woods, then into an open prairie. After winding back around the clubhouse, I finally reach the finish line in just under 27 minutes. I was more than four minutes slower than the race I had run hours before.
After the race, I decide to take in the experience a bit, taking a dip in the pool and talking with a few people. I am anxious though to get back to my car and get those running shorts back on.
Because of previous plans, I wasn’t able to stay for the awards or the afternoon barbecue.
I make small talk with a person directing runners while waiting for the final people to finish before I can leave. He tells me how he loves the place and the security he has there. He said most people leave them alone because they think they are loony.
After meeting some of them, I would say not loony, but different.
When I exit the park and get back on the road with my clothes on, all I can do is laugh and think to myself, “I can scratch that off my bucket list, and for the next race I’ll be keeping my clothes on.”