Featured in Like the Wind #8. Words by Scott Partenheimer – Illustration by Mark Frudd 

Have you ever wondered about your running bucket list? What kind of running experiences do you want out of life before you ascend to the great trail in the sky?

By the age of 33, I had tried every distance from the 5km to the 50km, at home and abroad, with race fields in the dozens to the tens of thousands. I joined a local running club. I got swept up in the trend of obstacle-course racing. I pounded beers in the beer mile, engaged in a year-long runstreak and gave spectators a good laugh when I entered a triathlon without any swimming experience. What could be next? What variable could I possibly add or subtract to create a completely new running experience?

Clothing, of course.

It had always been in the back of my mind to try a “clothing optional” race, and when I found a flyer for one at my local running store, I decided the time had come.

Going nude in public? Most people can’t bear it (or indeed bare it), though I’ve never been one of them. I’ve been to my share of nude beaches and saunas across Europe and Asia and I’m always the first up for drunken skinny-dipping at a party. Despite looking like a slightly fitter Danny DeVito, I’ve always been quite comfortable in the buff. This experience wasn’t going to be about reclaiming body confidence, but rather about racing hard while having a flapping good time. So to speak.

The Wiggle Jiggle Giggle 5km was held at the Sunny Rest Resort in the Pocono Mountains of Eastern Pennsylvania, an hour’s drive from Philadelphia. It’s a sprawling complex amid rolling farmland just off the highway. The main hub of the resort centres around the swimming pool by the entrance, but campgrounds and connecting roads snake out over the 190-acre property. It was on these roads that the 5km was run.

As I drove north to the race, I considered the possibility that I could win the whole thing. I doubted there were many nudists who doubled as serious runners, and conversely, there couldn’t be many serious runners who dared to go au naturel. But when I arrived at the starting area and sized up my competition, I saw lean men of all ages who looked like serious athletes, all in their birthday suits.

running had suddenly become a ball sport These men were doing dynamic stretches, discussing the course and race strategies, and checking their Garmins – just like any other race I’d ever been to. It turned out the competition was pretty stiff.

With nowhere to pin the bibs, runners used permanent markers to write their race numbers on their bodies. Under a blazing August sun, 129 of us, almost everyone fully nude, lined up and took off around 10 o’clock. I quickly fell in behind the lead pack.

I had nothing to look at for two miles but pasty white male butts.

The only spectators were the naturists who live at the resort through the summer and set up elaborate campgrounds with their RVs. Some cheered for us while others went about their Sunday business in the altogether, tending to their flower gardens or reading the morning paper with a cup of coffee, or just enjoying the bosom of nature.

Around and around the winding roads we charged, the lead pack dwindling one by one until it was just one other runner and me. With half a mile to go, I surged and was delighted when he didn’t counter. I continued running as hard as I could, like I wasn’t running some goofy race with a bunch of hippie nudists but instead for the glory of victory. I crossed the finish line in 19m52s, far from my best 5km time but good enough for the win, my first in years.

After cooling down, I recapped the thrills of the race with my closest competitors over by the refreshments, which included pretzels, cookies, Twizzlers and two large jugs. Of water.

At high noon, we all reconvened down by the pool, which was packed with nudists of all shapes, sizes and ages. The poolside bar – “Streakers” – was doing a brisk trade, and naked frivolity was everywhere to be seen. There was skin everywhere, a veritable celebration of it: young and old, wrinkled and smooth, tan and pale, all of it belonging to people who had no idea a race had just taken place in their midst. The race director nevertheless commandeered the PA system to announce the overall and age group winners.

For my win I received a trophy and a US$25 gift certificate for use at the in-house body painter, which I unfortunately didn’t have time for.

Taking pictures is generally taboo at nudist resorts, so I don’t have any photos from the race itself, but something tells me images from this day will be seared into my mind for years to come. Suffice it to say, it was a wonderfully unique morning of racing, and one I won’t soon forget.

While out with my running club the following week, a friend expressed interest in joining me at next year’s race so as to cross the item off his own running bucket list. He asked me to tell him what it was like racing naked.

“Your first time at a nudist resort is always your hardest,” I told him. “But don’t worry, once the race begins, you’ll rise to the occasion.”

Scott Partenheimer is a 3h01m marathoner and high school German teacher. He hopes this piece will gain him even more exposure – ithoughttheysaidrum.blogspot.com

Mark Frudd is an illustrator based in Leeds, wanting to get out and run more – instagram.com/markfrudd_illustration – markfrudd.com

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