Put the words ‘naturism’ and ‘sport’ together and the first images that many people still come up with probably involve volleyball and boules. More recently perhaps, they might think of cycling or swimming, given the success of the various World Naked Bike Rides and the plethora of mass skinny dipping events.
But naked running? To clarify, we’re not talking about streaking - as in groups of drunken college kids, almost invariably in the USA, stripping off for a quick nude sprint through the campus. Or those attention-seekers/out-of-their-tree types who disrupt major sports tournaments.
We mean proper running. Organised. Staged. Often competitive. And usually with one of two aims, not necessarily mutually exclusive: making a point and having fun.
Some of the events are relatively new. Others have a surprisingly long history. But it does seem to be a growing phenomenon: large groups of people racing against each other wearing little or nothing, either for charity, to publicise a worthy cause, or sometimes just for the sheer hell of it.
Many of the runs are held at nudist resorts or on other private property, and are increasingly attracting runners with no experience of nudism who want to try something different. Others take place at festivals or through busy city streets, in full view of the passing public and, almost inevitably, the camera lenses of the media.
But if you’re a true naturist, why would you care?
So if you fancy putting on your running shoes, but not having to bother about the rest of the apparel, here is our guide to some of the wackiest races taking place in 2015:
What: Pilwarren Maslin Beach Nude Games
The details: A naturist family day of games and competitions at the well-known nude beach in Adelaide. This definitely falls into the ‘fun’ category, as the races include children’s and adult’s versions of sack races, three-legged races and baton relays, as well as Frisbee throwing, donut eating, tug of war and even a ‘best bum’ competition.
What: Bay to Breakers
The details: The oldest consecutively-run annual footrace in the world is one of contradictions. Some people come to win, and some people come to walk. Some people wear hot pink gorilla suits, and some people wear... absolutely nothing. It's not quite certain how Bay to Breakers - named for the 12km route from the bay to the beach - became such a nudie destination, but then again we are in San Francisco. The police tried to stop the nakedness a few years ago, but nude racing teams prevailed.
What: Legua Nudista
The details: Naturism in Portugal is growing in popularity, and 2015 year will mark the third time this nudist run will take place on the official naturist beach of Praia do Meco near Lisbon. Around 50 naturists will tackle the 5 kilometre run and there are prizes for the winners, so it’s fairly competitive, although the organisers do now allow walkers as well as runners, in a bid to attract more family participants.
What: Roskilde Naked Run
The details: The Roskilde Festival, held each summer, is just the Woodstock-y sort of hippie music fest where you would expect to find some naked revellers. The festival's opening run will meet your expectations, and then some. On the first day of the weeklong event, hundreds of festival-goers strip down for a jog around the grounds, which stretch over almost 200 acres. If you're the quickest naked sprinter, you win a free ticket to next year's festival.
What: Running of the Nudes
The details: Arrive a few days early for Pamplona's annual gore-fest the Running of the Bulls, and you'll see hundreds of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) activists wearing little more than plastic horns. They aim to fight what they call the unethical practice of bullfighting by posing as bulls in fake coffins, coating themselves in faux blood, and streaking through the same streets that the bulls use on running day.
What: Wreck Beach Bare Buns Run
The details: At this clothing-optional gathering place in Vancouver, nudists of all ages take an annual 5km jog along what claims to be the largest naturist beach in the world. Other Wreck Beach activities include an annual naked postcard shoot and nude swim nights in the dead of winter. Those crazy Canucks!
What: Streak for Tigers
The details: Did you know that a group of tigers is called a streak? For the third year running (no pun intended) you can unleash your wild side and show your stripes in support of the ZSL London Zoo campaign to raise the profile of the work that needs to be done in order to save the endangered Sumatran tiger. Strip off and bare all for a streak around the zoo.
What: The Great Annual Nude Tunnel Run
Where: New Zealand
The details: You couldn’t make it up. There's a particular road tunnel in the Fiordland region of New Zealand’s South Island that's three quarters of a mile long and, at the time of this run, completely dark. Sponsored by a local kayaking outfitter, brave/foolhardy souls take to the tunnel totally naked and wield torches to fend off the blackness. The whole thing sounds scary, for a number of reasons.
All of the above events invariably demand the answer to one question. Why do people do it?
“There’s no question there’s a bucket-list mentality at play,” believes Pete Williams, director of the annual Caliente Bare Dare 5K at Caliente Naturist Resort in Florida. The 2014 race, held in May, attracted a record 312 runners from 25 states, and in recent years Williams - who also directs the Streak the Cove 5K in Kissimmee, Florida every September - has seen more runners getting up the nerve to run naked. “There’s a growing number of clothing-optional runs in the States,” he points out. “I know of at least 30, and there’s even a National Championship of Nude Running and a 5K Nude Racing Series, consisting of five runs in Texas and Oklahoma, organised by the American Association for Nude Recreation, with another circuit proposed for Florida. There’s even a naked obstacle race in Burlington, Wisconsin.”
There are, it seems, few limits on what people will do to enjoy themselves, naked, and as more nude runs are springing up, some are adding new traditions to distinguish themselves. The Color Me Bare run for instance in Los Gatos, California, features paint throwers who cover the naked runners with a mix of corn starch and powdered tempera along the course.
Welcome to the colourful world of naturism.