Wednesday, September 23, 2015

On naked racing and positive body image

Fans of this blog (all three of you) may recall a little race that I won last month... in the buff.  It was something I did on a lark, partly for the story and partly for a new and novel racing experience.  The need to reinforce positive body image never really entered into it.  I have my share of body hangups just like anyone else, but the thought that naked racing could cure any of them never occured to me.

But last week a running friend and freelance journalist interviewed me for an article on just that: naked racing and positive body image.

The article appeared today, and Liz writes, "that public nudity is one of America's most profound, collective nightmares has always fascinated me.  We attach the utmost value to certain clandestine body parts.  We seem to believe skin is more sacred for never having seen the light of day."  I couldn't agree more.

The Germans have a healthy take on social nudism known as Frei Körper Kultur, which literally translates to "free body culture."  Having lived in Germany in high school and college and traveled throughout Europe, I'm no stranger to nude spas and beaches.  It's left a sense of confidence in me and refusal to feel embarrassed or ashamed of my body to the point that doing a naked race wasn't the earth shattering event it might be for others.

I love Liz's angle on it.  I definitely agree that naked racing and social nudism in general could contribute to healthier self esteem and acceptance of one's body, though I don't know that a naked 5k will be gracing Philadelphia's streets anytime soon.

Anyway, as usual when I'm interviewed for an article, I had a lot to say, but only a few quotes made it into the piece, so I thought I would share the full interview here:

Name: Scott
Occupation: high school teacher
Location: Collingswood
Naked Race: Wiggle Jiggle Giggle 5-K at Sunny Rest Resort in PA.
Running since: off and on since high school, consistently since 2005.

What motivated you to try a naked race in the first place?
I love running and enjoy doing all different kinds of races, and it was always on my bucket list to try a clothing optional race. Partly for the story but mostly just to try something different.

What was the most surprising/unexpected aspect of naked racing?

I guess the most surprising thing was how easy it was to forget about the nudity and focus on the racing. It was just like any other race I've ever done: sizing up potential competition at the starting line, setting off with a lead pack of runners, trying to find the right time to make the kick, doubt and worry over whether I can hold the pace, giving it all I have in the final tenth of a mile... just with a whole lot of nudity.

How did naked racing change your relationship with your body?

I don't think that naked racing changed my relationship with my body so much as it reinforced how I already feel. Clothed or not, my body is what I have to work with and it is capable of amazing things, and there is no need to feel ashamed of it. I'm extremely proud of winning that race, even if it was just a goofy run with a bunch of nudists hidden away in the Pocono Mountains.
There were about 130 runners of all shapes, ages, sizes, and running abilities. It was a clothing optional race, but very few people opted for clothing.

How many people have you told about your naked racing experience? What has been the general reaction from your family and friends? What's the most supportive response you received? The most critical?
I wrote a blog post about the race and tweeted a few times about it, and told everyone in the Wednesday night running crew, but that's it. The people in the running group generally thought it was hilarious. There were dozens of questions, and some have even expressed interest in running next year with me. I guess that would be the most supportive response. There really hasn't been a critical response.
I never brought it up with my family. My dad and grandmother read my blog but neither have mentioned the race. My wife would have done it with me but we couldn't work out the logistics with our baby.

Do you think naked racing will continue to grow in popularity or remain a niche event?
I would love to see more people try naked racing, but it will probably remain a niche event. For one thing, you pretty much have to offer races like this at nudist resorts and only in warm weather, so you're limited in the times of year and the places you can offer them. I had to drive an hour and a half to get to this race, which I normally don't do for a 5k. Also, depending on your body type, it's hard to run hard for 3 straight miles without some sort of support. So there may be some people who want to try it but it would be distinctly uncomfortable.

What kind of person should try naked racing? What kind of person should avoid it?
What kind of person should try it? Anyone willing to step out of their comfort zone. I would definitely recommend it for someone trying to overcome body issues. All of those insecurities that we cover up with clothing - a bulging stomach, stretch marks, saggy skin, whatever - are thrust into the open. You quickly see that everyone has some sort of imperfection and no one is judging anyone. This is even more true when racing. You stop focusing on your imperfections and remember how strong your body is and what it is capable of. It's all about joy of running and racing and the nudity quickly becomes secondary.
What people shouldn't try it? Again, the support issue might preclude certain body types from naked racing, but not from social nudism as a whole.


  1. This is a great interview! Wow, I don't think I could run a race completely naked, and I don't really have any major body image issues. Maybe we will see more naked races...I know there's a Cupid's undies race in February and there's no way I'd do that either! Love the message behind it though.

    1. Hey thanks for reading, Janelle. I guess naked racing isn't for everyone! Don't know if I would do the indie run either - might be too tame for me now!

  2. This is awesome! I am glad you published the entire interview, because you made a lot of excellent points. Thank you again for sharing your experience. :)


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