I Ran a Naked 5K and Learned... a Lot About Human Bodies
Nothing in the world will make you run faster than a naked man grunting behind you. Not that this valuable life lesson came as a great shock, but as I neared the end of my first-ever naked race and heard those uncomfortable grunts bearing down on me, it gave me a little extra burst of speed to propel myself across the finish line. And yeah, it hurt.
That's how I finished the Caliente Bare Dare 5K, one of America's greatest naked races and the self-proclaimed "National Championship of Nude Running." Because, apparently, even nudists have type-A assholes who can't do anything just for fun. Sure, I'd run marathons, triathlons, and even spent a month taking women's fitness classes, but I'd never done any of it naked. And what life is complete without a half-hour jog sans shorts through a Central Florida nudist resort?
Just another day at the nudist resort
And speaking of naked hideaways, the race winds itself through the Caliente Resort in Land O' Lakes, Florida, a palm-lined community that looks like any other Sunshine State development: man-made lakes with fountains surrounded by two-story townhomes with screened-in porches. The only difference -- the people sitting on those porches are completely nude.
Admittedly, I had a lot of questions before I arrived. Important stuff like, "Where do I put my car keys?" and "How do I attach a race number?" But probably most crucial: "How painful is it going to be having my junk flopping around for 3.2 miles?"
To address the third one -- without actually having to find out firsthand -- I invested in a jock strap. Or, I tried. Upon stopping at the Sports Authority, however, I learned that -- much like VCRs and the post office -- jock straps have become obsolete, replaced by sexy, padded support spandex. I bought a pair of nice bright-green ones.
And then I pulled into the resort. Let's just say that not a single person warming up in the parking lot was wearing clothes. Nothing. It was at this point that I realized running in anything other than sunscreen would be like going to a rave and putting in earplugs. Like, right in front of everybody, and while making a scene about how I have to have my ear plugs. Nudists won't judge you for being fat, hairy, or rocking 14 scrotum piercings, but they probably WOULD judge you for coming to a 5K and running in underwear. At least that was my assessment.
And thus, with my manhood in question, I decided to suck it up, strip off my spandex, and make my way to the starting line.
The race begins...
As I turned the corner toward said starting line, a wall of bright-white skin and ass cracks blocked the road. The ratio was about two to one, men to women, and everyone seemed to be in fairly good shape. Which, let's be honest, was a welcome (albeit unexpected) surprise.
As the "Star-Spangled Banner" played and people saluted the flag, I only regretted not being at the front of the formation to see 300 folks with their hands covering their hearts, and nothing covering their junk. On second thought, maybe I was better at the back of the pack. The starting gun sounded and the stereo blasted a pump-me-up rendition of "Thunderstruck." Perfectly fine, I agree, although I could have thought of a much more appropriate AC/DC song to start a race like this.
Now, if you've ever run any sort of distance contest, you know the first quarter-mile or so is basically a giant mob where runners crash into each other trying to jockey for position. This absolutely did NOT happen here, as it seemed people were cool adding an extra few seconds to their time in exchange for NOT bumping into 200 naked strangers. Perhaps all marathons should be clothing-free until mile two.
So, let's get right to it -- things started out a little uncomfortable. My unsupported bits and tackle were bouncing around like a boardwalk slingshot ride, painfully crashing down with every stride. But like running on a bad ankle, I got used to it after about a half-mile. And after noticing the women with Florida-sized breast implants (even though I totally wasn't looking) jogging next to me -- sans sports bras -- I realized it could probably be a lot worse.
The human body is an interesting machine
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the whole race was observing the anatomy of running. People typically think of it as something that's dominated by your legs, but when the person in front of you is naked you see every muscle flex. From calves to glutes, lower back to shoulders. And it's such a complex combination of movement that you start to understand why so many runners suffer from muscle and joint issues when they get older.
By the way, I was killing it at this point, in case you were wondering. Two miles in and I was on a 7:30 pace (that's killing it when you weigh 215). Front/middle of the pack. It was also at this point that I started to hear the grunting.
You know how there's always that one dude at the gym who sounds like he's either having an orgasm or pulling the space shuttle every time he does a set of biceps curls? Now imagine he's doing that, but COMPLETELY NAKED. And running behind you. I like to think I'm pretty comfortable with my sexuality, but when a sweaty naked dude is chasing you and making orgasm noises, you run a little faster. It's instinct.
Needless to say, I turned on the afterburners and put some distance between myself and Grunting Gus. All the while grabbing water from (naked) volunteers along the route and basking in the cheers of (naked) residents sitting on their aforementioned front porches. One lady, who I strangely saw twice, even looked at me and quipped, "Nice satchel." Uhhh... thank you? I'm not even sure what that was supposed to mean.
The big finish
Around mile two-and-a-half the heat began to take its toll. Not so much on my legs, but more on the skin between my thighs. Yeah, the chafing got REAL. In a clothed race, you typically don't need chafing cream unless you're running more than a 10K. Definitely not the case in naked racing. I slowed up a little hoping to reduce the friction.
But then I heard it again. "Unnnngh... ungggggh... unghhhhhh." At first in the distance; then uncomfortably closer and louder. And I'll be damned if I didn't work the whole race avoiding Grunting Gus, just to let him pass me at the finish. No chance. So I kicked up an extra burst of speed, raced across the finish line, and dumped an ice-cold bottle of water over my entire body. Shrinkage be damned.
I didn't PR the naked 5K, but that was OK with me. Sure, the top-20 finishers won a lovely bottle of wine each, but this wasn't a race you did for time. It's one you ran for the experience of jogging through a Florida subdivision in nothing but a race number. And an experience it was; I'd definitely recommend it assuming you're cool with stripping down in front of strangers. Just make sure you train in boxer shorts!
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Matt Meltzer is a staff writer with Thrillist who will be fully clothed for the foreseeable future. See him dressed on Instagram: @meltrez1.