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Time to dress down and fire up—it’s the Kona Underpants Run.
It could be a record-breaking day on Ali’i Drive in Kona this October—before the start cannon even blasts over Kailua Bay. The organizers of the Kona Underpants Run, a race-week tradition since 1998, are targeting a Guinness World Record for the largest assembly of people wearing only their skivvies (or knickers). The current mark, 2,270, should be easy to best—last year’s crowd of Underpants Runners was estimated at more than 3,000, and the 1.5-mile social jog has grown every year of its 16-year existence.
The inspiration behind the event was to poke fun at the athletes parading around Kona in absurd outfits. “Over the years, locals would get put off by athletes going to the grocery store and to dinner in their Speedos during race week,” says Roch Frey, one of the KUPR organizers and North American technical director for Ironman. “So Paul Huddle and two of his buddies, Chris Danahy and Tim Morris, decided to do a little protest run down Ali’i Drive in their underpants just to show how silly it looked.”
Word spread, and each year more people showed up on the Thursday before race day to join in the fun. In 2000, they decided to try to raise some money around the event for West Hawaii Special Olympics, which had just lost its state funding. They rounded up sponsors, asked for a $20 donation from participants and raised $4,000.
“It has just blossomed from there, and we’ve raised more than $200,000 since its inception,” says Frey, who wears the same uniform each year—a cheesy tourist hat, heart rate monitor chest strap, tighty-whities, long black socks and running shoes.
When Frey heard about the Guinness World Record for the “largest accumulation of people in underpants and knickers in one place” and that the current record is 2,270 people (at the Utah Undie Run in Salt Lake City), he knew it was a reasonable goal. “I thought, ‘We’ve got all those people—we’ve just gotta get them all registered and to donate $20, and we’ll go for that Guinness record.’”
Frey is flying in a representative from Guinness World Records to verify the head count so they’ll know within minutes of completion if the run set a new record. And for the first time in KUPR history, each runner will be chip timed for verification purposes. Also, the skinny on skivvies: “I’ve talked to the people at Guinness, and underpants could be a pair of Speedos or bikini bottoms,” explains Frey. “As long as they’re underpants-type looking, and the women have a top on of some sort, we’re good to go. The only people who wouldn’t qualify are those who are wearing a costume. And you have to be in your own pair of underpants—no shared underpants in 86-inch size.”
Also to note: The start and finish have changed locations this year. It will start and finish behind the Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, in the parking lot where the Ironman banquets take place.
Registration is $20 (virtual donations also accepted), which benefits five local charities. In addition to a souvenir timing chip, KUPR runners get swag from sponsors Headsweats, Greenlayer, Beaker Concepts and Wood Underwear. And all registered participants will get a certificate emailed to them proving that they were part of a Guinness World Record.
“At the end of the day we’re raising some good money for charity,” Frey says. “It’s such a stressful week during the world championship, and it’s such a fun event where athletes can blow off some steam.”
To learn more and to sign up visit Underpantsrun.org.