Competitors wearing little but their underwear smiled and cheered as they finished the ninth annual Underpants Run, yesterday, in Kailua-Kona. About 100 men, women and children ran in the mile-long event, which crossed paths with the start and finish areas of the considerably more serious Ironman competition, which will be held tomorrow. The Underpants Run, originally begun to poke fun at Speedo-wearing Ironman competitors, is now a fund-raiser for a local charity.
Kona runners off in undies
Participants in the fun run are clad only in their underpants for the humorous event
KAILUA-KONA » Some 100 runners wearing nothing but their skivvies turned out yesterday for the Underpants Run, a fun run that has become an annual event in the days leading up to Saturday's Ironman World Championship.
"It's pretty much 'the' event now," joked founder and former professional triathlete Paul Huddle. "People fly in Wednesday night just for this."
Not all triathletes would agree. More than 1,800 competitors from 80 countries are in Kona for the grueling Ironman, a 2.4-mile ocean swim, 112-mile bike leg through the lava fields and a full 26.2-mile marathon run.
Some of the international athletes who come to Hawaii to train in and around the village for the race in the week before the event sparked the idea for the fun run, which began with three people in 1997.
"It was a reaction to the abhorrent and unbelievable practice of wearing Speedos around town, in the post office, the grocery store, even restaurants," Huddle said. "It's just a clash of the cultures, between the more conservative Americans and the whole European and Mediterranean resort vacation thing."
After taking a pledge not to wear racing Speedos for anything other than swimming, the runners took off to Kailua Pier for a quick round of calisthenics and then continued along Alii Drive.
Some runners sported their best Calvin Klein or Banana Republic undies. Others were more creative -- grass skirts, coconut bras, black and yellow Joe Boxers, even the layered look with bright white Hanes peeking out from under a colorful thong.
Huddle and co-founder Roch Frey drafted their wives to sell T-shirts printed with the phrase "I see London, I see France, No, it's your underpants," for $20 each, with the proceeds benefiting West Hawaii Special Olympics.
Huddle's wife, Paula Newby-Fraser, is an eight-time Ironman winner, and Frey's wife, Heather Fuhr, won the race in 1997 and is considered a favorite this year.
As the runners went through their warm-ups at the pier, several Speedo-clad triathletes looked on, fully aware that their attire was the butt of the day's joke.
"We just got out of the water from our swim and haven't had time to change yet," Oliver Gallob of Germany said in his own defense.