Do you ever have one of those dreams in which everything seems normal, then you suddenly become aware that you are completely naked? I do—a lot. That may explain why I decided to participate in a rather unusual 5K run in Eastern Washington last week. Almost all the participants were nude—including myself. Exploring your fears is the best way to conquer them.
Since 1983, the Bare Buns 5K Fun Run has taken place on the last Sunday of July in the heavily wooded hills around the Kaniksu Ranch Family Nudist Park near Loon Lake, about 50 miles north of Spokane. Race director David Wayson claims it is the oldest event of its kind in the nation and also ranks as the nation's largest; it drew more than 450 entrants in 2002. While 70 percent of these participants were men, Wayson said that the number of female runners at this year's event was relatively high. All but a handful of the runners chose to compete sans clothing; most of the race officials and spectators were also similarly nonattired. The lack of wind resistance apparently does wonders to improve speed, as the top three times in both the men's and women's divisions at this year's run were clocked by nude runners.
As for myself, the free and natural experience wasn't quite as difficult as I had imagined it might be. The initial act of disrobing requires a certain leap of faith (do I really want to be branded as a "nudist" for the rest of my life?). But, fearing that the longer I waited, the more timid I would become, I removed my clothes shortly after parking my car in the crowded lot near the main Kaniksu Lodge. At this point, however, I realized that my various pre-run stretching exercises would have been much more effectively engaged had I done them before converting to the California style. Oops, too late to correct that mistake. I was also genuinely concerned about the dreaded bounce effect, but my worries quickly diminished once the gun sounded to start the race. Shrinkage does wonders for this potential problem.
Was there ever a danger of getting excited along the route? Not really. While you've heard that nudist resorts are typically populated by the kind of people you don't ever want to see naked, most participants in this race looked as if they exercised regularly. Of course, your overall definition of attractiveness needs a bit of retooling when you are looking at the rather bizarre sight of hundreds of people who are stripped to running shoes while sporting numbered race bibs ridiculously strung to their chests. For better or for worse, I quickly discovered that I didn't get any kind of charge from running behind someone else's bare behind. By the time I had reached the last mile, I was wearily focusing all of my attention on the long uphill curve of the course, as opposed to the many unclothed curves around me.
If you are interested in being part of the air-cooled jogging subculture, consider trekking to Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, Aug. 10 for the Wreck Beach Bare Buns Run/Walk, a 7.5 kilometer affair. For complete information on clothing-optional running events around the world (who knew a seven-race "circuit" of these events occurs between April and October in Texas and Oklahoma?), see www.cybernude.com/nuderuns/.