Photo by: Kaniksu ~ Smiley faces by: BRS Running Bare(footed)By Hank (Gigowiz) Greer I filled out the registration form and reached the part where it said, “Indicate if you will be running nude. You may change your mind later if you wish.”Oh, I'll be nude, I thought, And then some. I had recently taken up barefoot running, and I thought this would be the consummate race for running with bare feet.I circled “yes”, completed the rest of the form and mailed it in with a check for the registration fee. Then I asked myself, Do I have the cohones to run in the nude? I still had a month and a half to decide—well into the future. For the time being, though, I felt pretty confident about wearing my birthday suit in the 25th Bare Buns Fun Run. I wasn't familiar with the roads to the Kaniksu Ranch north of Spokane, so I left home early on the morning of the race. After thirty miles, I ended up on a long, dusty road passing through some beautiful woods and pastures. In the distance, two hazy clouds told me I was following a couple other vehicles. Another car caught up and closed in behind me. Waiting at the gate to the ranch was a man sitting on an ATV and wearing goggles to protect his eyes from the dust. He waved us through. I slowly continued along the road for another mile or so and reached what looked like a water station. A fire truck was parked nearby, and a few people milled about a table holding a couple of water coolers. A man in an orange vest pointed, directing me to make a left turn into the woods. I noticed the road I was now on was mostly packed dirt and that it had been hosed down that morning, probably to keep the dust down. After about a half of a mile, I came upon a most unusual sight. A nude pot-bellied man with very long gray hair streaming down between his shoulder blades stood at the side of the road.A table on the other side of the road holding a couple of water coolers and a package of cups indicated another water station. The man smiled, waved and said, “Hi,” as I drove by. I couldn't help but think of him as a very large, nude and beardless gnome standing in the woods. Arriving at the main compound, I saw a myriad rainbow of tents filling a grassy area which was surrounded by cabins. Kiosks selling food, drinks, jewelry, and other goods were set up near the finish line. A tranquil pond behind them reflected the gray sky. Plastic yellow tape and orange cones marked the race path going through the compound. Another man—this one wearing clothes and an orange vest —told me to continue up the road, and park anywhere I could find a spot. I parked my van, stuck the key in the tiny pocket of my running shorts and walked back to the compound. A few clothed and a lot of unclothed people were present, which is to be expected at a nudist ranch, but since it was a cool morning, several people were wearing shirts and nothing else.The combination of covered torsos and exposed lower bodies seemed very strange to me, especially the men. It was like a number of people had started to dress or undress, forgot what they were doing and continued on their day completely oblivious of their half-dressed state. But what really struck me was the lack of what would generally be considered beautiful bodies; the images with primary claim to health and beauty fed to us by the fashion and entertainment magazines in supermarket checkout lines, reminding us of our many imperfections and telling us how to firm up or lose weight from any area in ten days. There were people of every conceivable shape and size here with absolutely nothing to hide.Nobody was photoshopped, and everyone was pretty casual and indifferent about it. At the registration desk, I picked up my race number and a piece of yarn to tie it around my neck with. A Velcro band containing a chip to time my run went around my left ankle. I also received a commemorative pin marking the 25th anniversary of the Bare Buns Fun Run. How funny to hand out pins to a bunch of nudists. I managed to shove the pin into the pocket holding my key. I asked a man at the desk if it was okay if I just set my clothes off to the side at the start of the race. He said, “Sure. Nobody around here wants any clothes anyway.” Good point. I walked over to the start area near the field of tents and patiently waited. A few minutes later, there was a bit of excitement. I saw smoke rising about 200 feet away. A kiosk blocked my view, so I couldn't see what was on fire, but I thought it odd that there was a fire. As the smoke thickened and the rising flames were now visible from my viewpoint, a few people closer than me started yelling, “Fire!”Remarkably, most people seemed unconcerned. I moved to the side until I had a clear view of a propane-fed cooker engulfed in flames. Two propane tanks sat at the base. My imagination instantly created newspaper headlines announcing hundreds of nude people horribly burned by exploding fuel tanks, and I started backing away. Then a man with a large fire extinguisher—and I don't mean in a figurative sense—put the fire out. With the short-lived, but potentially devastating emergency over, I walked back to where I was before. A race official dressed only in an orange safety vest and carrying a bullhorn walked by me, tugged on my shirt sleeve and said, “You can take those off at any time, you know.” “I plan to,” I said. I found it interesting that although I wasn't ready to take my clothes off yet, I really wasn't that concerned about running nude. My mind was on running barefooted. Two months earlier, I read about the benefits of running barefooted and decided to give it a try. It turned out to be more involved than I could have guessed. Besides the obvious need for thick calluses, I had to change my running style and strengthen some muscles in my lower legs. There were some painful times for my shins and soles, but I was now at a point where I could comfortably run barefoot for three miles on a mix of asphalt, cement, and grass. Yet even with my thickened soles it still hurt to step on rocks, so I had to pay attention to the running surface, keeping a careful eye out and avoid landing on stones and debris. And yet even though my feet needed to toughen up some more, there was one benefit to barefoot running I did not expect.Running was no longer a necessary evil I did just to stay fit. The change in my running form was taking less of a physical toll on my joints and muscles. I felt like I was gliding along and using my body more efficiently. Running was now fun. As the start time neared, runners were directed up one road and the walkers another. Now I started to feel a little self conscious, since I was one of the few people wearing clothing. One nude man wore a knee brace, and a couple of men and women were wearing only heart monitors. You have to be a serious runner to be wearing a heart monitor on a nude run. I didn't see many people wearing clothes.And why would I? Optional or not, it is a nude run. I was thinking about running barefoot again and asked a man next to me about the surface of the route. He said most of it is packed dirt, but there was a rocky area near the turnaround point. With that, I decided to go for it. After all, my whole reason for doing this was to run the Bare Buns Fun Run completely bare. I removed my shoes and socks and set them on top of a nearby stone wall. I pulled my shirt off and shucked my shorts, folded them up, and set them on top of my shoes. I decided not to stretch for two reasonsne, I didn't need to. It was only 3.1 miles, and I wasn't racing; secondly, I noticed several men—and there was a preponderance of men in the runners group—who were stretching. The human body may be beautiful, but not from all viewpoints. Certain stretches being done by nude men and viewed from certain angles just makes you turn away with the thought, I don't even need to see that. I thought it considerate of me to not put the others through that. I returned to the group, and I became disconcertingly preoccupied with the perplexity and uncertainty of where to put my hands. Funny how being completely uncovered can make you feel that way. Should I cross my arms? Maybe put my hands behind my back? Let them hang straight down?While I periodically changed hand positions, unlike everybody else, and tried to look casual, like everybody else.I noticed there were very few people in my skin tone category. Many were tan all over, and some were pale all over. I'm an avid cyclist, and thanks to the cycling shorts and jerseys, I am tan from the bottom third of my thighs down to my feet, from mid-biceps to my hands, and my face and neck. Pasty white in the middle and brown on the ends, I likened myself to an undercooked gingerbread man. Since I could not remember being nude outside ever in my lifetime, I'm guessing this was the first time my butt had seen sunshine since I was two or three years old, if at all. But the nonchalant attitude that surrounded me actually made me very comfortable, and I gradually relaxed. Nobody was pointing or staring. Until... “Now there's a bare runner,” said a man pointing at my feet. “That's hard core,” said another. I didn't respond. I didn't know what to say, and besides, they weren't asking me a question. I did glance down at my bare feet and I spied a quarter lying on the ground. Normally I would pick that up, I thought, but I don't have anywhere to put it. So I left it. Unexpectedly, a cannon boomed to start the race. This cannon was so loud and surprising that had I not gone to the bathroom beforehand I would have made an embarrassing wet spot on the ground.But at least my pants would have remained dry. The crowd of runners started down the road ahead of the walkers, passing by the cheering spectators at the starting line who would also be there when we finished, since the line served a dual purpose. The sensor dutifully marked the passage of the chips on our ankles. Wearing a race bib, timing chip, glasses, wedding ring—Yes, ladies, this (c)hunk is happily spoken for—and hearing aids, I was off on my first and probably only nude run. As I mentioned before, an important aspect of running barefoot is that I need to see the ground ahead of me, so I can avoid stepping on hurtful objects. I was in a large crowd of people going down a single-lane dirt road, so it was difficult for me to see. I would slow down a bit to create some space ahead of me, and someone behind me would pass me by and fill it in. Consequently, my first mile was rife with uncomfortable stabbing pains from landing on the occasional small stone. Just past the one mile mark, the pot-bellied man I drove past earlier, now wearing the orange vest of a race official, was handing out cups of water to anyone who wanted one. I pressed on. As the group of runners stretched out, I was able to pick out my path and speed up my pace.Then suddenly I was boxed in. A young woman was right in front of me and there were people to her left and right. As with any race, random people converge and match pace for a bit, and you have to wait for the group to break up, so you can move ahead. I was looking down at this woman's butt, which under other circumstances would not have been an unpleasant sight, but I wanted to see the path. I nailed a couple more rocks before the other runners separated from her, and I was able to get by. This was an out-and-back race, so as the faster runners coming back up the road now forced us to stay to the right, and I had to be more careful to avoid getting blocked in again. Nearing the turnaround point, I was greeted by the water station I saw when I first drove in and a roadbed of fist-sized rocks. I put the brakes on and carefully walked across the rocks while shod runners I recently passed now returned the favor. I ran to the turnaround point and returned to pick my way across the rocks again. “Where are your shoes?” asked a woman at the water station as I gingerly stepped by. “Up at the start,” I replied. Leaving the rocks behind, I took off. Being familiar with what was ahead and having a very clear view, I could pick up the pace and had a much more pleasant return trip.Along the way, a few more people commented about my bare feet. The pot-bellied man smiled at me as I zipped by. After crossing the finish line in my birthday suit a race official stopped me and asked if I ran the whole course barefoot. He said he'd never seen that before. I walked over to the t-shirt table and traded my bib tag for a shirt, a shirt I probably won't be wearing in mixed company. The design is a nude woman sitting on a bear leading a lot of nude people on a run. And it includes the words “Nude Finisher” to indicate the wearer did in fact cross the finish line nude. I grabbed a cup of water and walked back to the start area where my clothes sat undisturbed.I put them back on and picked up the quarter I spied earlier. My feet were a little sore, and it felt good to have shoes back on. Since the road to the ranch was also the race route, I couldn't leave yet, so I watched the remainder of the finishers come in, all of them unconcerned about their various floppy body parts slapping time with each step as they ran down the hill to the finish. Some of the people wearing clothes would strip down just before the end and then cross the finish line nude, thus meeting the minimum requirement for receiving a nude finisher shirt. As I watched and waited, a number of finishers walked by. One of them asked, “Hey, aren't you the guy who ran barefoot?” “Yes,” I answered. “That was pretty cool.” So there's the answer to the question at the beginning of this story. I do I have the cohones to run the Bare Buns Fun Run in the nude. But you had to be there to see them. And having seen my 50-plus-year-old body in the mirror, I'm betting my run down the hill to the finish line was not the most attractive sight. I'm also sure that nobody cared. No, the only thing remarkable about my running nude for about twenty-eight minutes was that I wasn't wearing shoes. And like all my barefoot runs, it was fun.