Anyone interested in doing the Kona Underpants Run needs to be at Pacific Vibrations on Likana Lane, right across from Hulihee Palace, by 8 a.m. Thursday. The best thing is to arrive around 7:30 to have time to make a charitable donation to the event.
Founder Paul Huddle and 14-year participant Roch Frey said they decided after 3 years of seeing the event grow from just “a couple of guys” to dozens, then hundreds, they decided it would be important to give back to the Kona community by asking entrants to make a $20 or greater charitable donation. This year the beneficiaries are Visitors Aloha Society Hawaii, which directly assists any visitors in need, and Ahuena Heiau, Inc, which cares for the Ahuena Heiau behind the King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel.
Huddle says they started the run in 1998 to spoof visiting Iron athletes who insisted on wearing their Speedos everywhere, not just while practicing the swim portion of the Ironman or riding or running, but at the post office, at the grocery store, and in restaurants. Huddle and Frey both say that may work in Europe or South America, but here…not so much. So one day, Huddle and a couple of buddies just, as he says, “dropped our pants” and ran down Ali’i Drive from the King Kamehameha’s Hotel to Lava Java and back. He said they got lots of laughs. That stunt, 15 years ago, has resulted in a run that in 2011 attracted more than 1,000 runners.
Thursday, everybody will gather at Pacific Vibrations in time for the 8 a.m. start. First up? Attire check. The official attire for men is white BVDs, the traditional Y front underpants, long black socks, with hats and heart rate monitor straps optional. For women, they are a little more lax. But underpants are definitely required, although it’s not clear they’d ban anybody from the run for inappropriate attire. The event attracts runners and walkers of all ages from toddler to senior citizen. Huddle and Frey will ask everybody to repeat the official oath, in which they pledge to wear Speedos only to swim. And then the grueling event begins.
Huddle says the event is the culmination of a year’s training, sometimes a life’s training, for many athletes. The run goes uphill from Pacific Vibrations–very tough, they say–and then down through the Kona Seaside Hotel parking lot. They will run through the porte cochere at the King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel and into the cul-de-sac by Kailua Pier. There, it’s time for calisthenics, another grueling part of the event–jumping jacks, gorilla jumps, squat thrusts, and more. Then it’s off again, down Ali’i Drive to Uncle Billy’s and back. Frey says there is usually a sprint at the finish. They’ve had 8-year-olds “win” the 1.2-mile event.
Huddle points out that they’ve had Ironman winners in the event in the years they’ve won. He won’t point to a cause-and-effect situation, but does suggest there may be one.
The biggest difference in the event this year is due to last year’s huge crowd, Huddle and Frey got a parade permit this year, and the road will be closed from 8 a.m. until 8:30 a.m. at Palani and Kuakini, with the road closure going down to Ali’i Drive and Hualalai Road.
In addition to collecting donations for the run “entry fee,” they will be selling raffle tickets for a variety of donated items ranging from underpants to local activities to shirts to more. The raffle is at 8:20 at the conclusion of the 1.2-mile event.
So far, the Kona Underpants Run has raised over $110,000 for local charities. Roch Frey said Wednesday morning they’d already received more than $4,000 for this year’s event. They will welcome donations at the Multisport Tent at Hale Halawai even after the run. Donors will receive shirts or hats.