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It may not be the most challenging event in Kona during Ironman week. In fact, it’s not much of a race at all. But the annual Kona Underpants Run is certainly the most entertaining – and jaw-dropping – one-mile jaunt ever associated with triathlon.
I remember my first time in Kona, in the late 90’s, seeing 40 or so athletes stride through town in
their ill-fitting white Hanes briefs. I was more embarrassed for them than
amused by them. But the run – created as a venue for Ironman athletes to poke
fun at themselves, their Speedo-inspired fashion and their bizarre inclination
to wear such attire out in public beyond the race course – has grown
considerably in popularity and acceptance. This year, several hundred
scantily-clad runners participated in the event, and hundreds more thronged the
streets to witness the fleshy fun run.
In addition to being fodder for some great laughs, the Underpants Run is a fundraiser for local
charities. The beneficiaries of the 2009 event were the Special Olympics West Hawaii and the Hale Mua Cultural Group. The combined efforts of everyone
involved with the run raised almost eight thousand dollars to support these two
wonderful non-profits. So while we were all laughing with each other (and at
ourselves), we also helped give back to the community that so generously opens
its arms to the influx of Ironman each October.