Pre-race underwear tradition skimps down Alii Drive

  • The 22nd annual Underpants Run in Kona. (J.R. De Groote/West Hawaii Today)
  • The 22nd annual Underpants Run in Kona. (J.R. De Groote/West Hawaii Today)
  • The 22nd annual Underpants Run in Kona. (J.R. De Groote/West Hawaii Today)
  • The 22nd annual Underpants Run in Kona. (Photos by J.R. De Groote/West Hawaii Today)

  • The 22nd annual Underpants Run in Kona. (J.R. De Groote/West Hawaii Today)

  • The 22nd annual Underpants Run in Kona. (J.R. De Groote/West Hawaii Today)
  • The 22nd annual Underpants Run in Kona. (J.R. De Groote/West Hawaii Today)
  • The 22nd annual Underpants Run in Kona. (J.R. De Groote/West Hawaii Today)
  • The 22nd annual Underpants Run in Kona. (J.R. De Groote/West Hawaii Today)
  • The 22nd annual Underpants Run in Kona. (J.R. De Groote/West Hawaii Today)

  • The 22nd annual Underpants Run in Kona. (J.R. De Groote/West Hawaii Today)
  • Mike Reilly leads a pack of underwear-clad runners down Alii Drive for the 22nd annual Underpants Run in Kona. (J.R. De Groote/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — If spectator Sandy Vincent tried what she saw on Thursday, the law would come down on her.

That is, if she were to strip down and run nearly naked down Alii Drive, which is what thousands did at the 22nd annual Underpants Run, per Ironman pre-race tradition.

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“We’d both receive citations for being in underwear,” she said, referring to her husband, Mike, who sat next to her in front of Splasher’s Bar as they prepared to watch the early-morning spectacle. “I’m not allowed to even wear a bathing suit.”

Though Sandy did spy one of the scantily clad contestants wearing athletic tape that wrapped up the athlete’s skin so compactly it hid all imperfections — almost like one of those muscle shirts.

“That would help,” she said.

The less-bashful, though, had no problem. Dressed in costumes or barely anything at all, they ran down Kailua-Kona’s famous waterfront strip in the name of good fun.

“It’s just to relax and get out some racing nerves,” said Australia’s Carolyn Tonelli, who will participate in her first Ironman World Championship on Saturday.

Dressed in bikinis with racing pal Kelly Miller and Amanda Thompson, they said there’s no better way to get their minds off Saturday than good old-fashioned gassing around.

But Thompson, who was there as support crew, didn’t have pre-race jitters to blame. She wasn’t doing the triathlon, but support means support, so there she was Thursday, taking part for her friends.

“My mom had to bribe me,” she said of donning the slight attire. “At 43, it takes that much.”

Thousands of those not-too-shabby bodies lined up at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel at 7:30 a.m. behind iconic Ironman emcee Mike Reilly, who rode a moped at the head of the line.

“There are things you won’t be able to unsee,” he told the crowd gathered to watch.

On a serious note, underpants runs have raised around $300,000 for local charities through donations over the last 20-plus years. It started in 1998 with Chris Danahy, Tim Morris, and Paul Huddle as a protest against wearing Speedos in inappropriate places, like restaurants, according to the event’s bio page, meaning the event goes down as an ultimate backfire.

Or the world’s greatest case of reverse psychology.

Like Thompson, Mark Bond, of New Zealand, took part as a supporter. He might not have had the typical Ironman physique, but he had a plan.

“I’m gonna start running and strip it off and start throwing it,” he said of his clothes, which was no big deal. “I’m quite confident in myself.”

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Racer Brett Kessler, from Denver, was there for all the right reasons: supporting racers, camaraderie, enjoying the moment, etc. But, being honest, he confessed it was just simply fun being around all those glorious bodies.

“That’s the best part,” he said.

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