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Kona Underpants Run – An Ironman Triathlon Tradition Continues

Kona Underpants Run

There is a lot of history and tradition associated with the Ironman Triathlon World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. One such iconic event that takes place the Thursday morning before the race is the Kona Underpants Run. The Kona Underpants Run (or UPR) started as a joke to poke fun at (mostly European) triathletes that would walk around Kona during race week while wearing their Speedos. Apparently, the business owners and local Kona residents were a little taken aback by the skimpy choice of off-the-beach wear.

In 1998, three triathletes decided to take matters into their own hands, and the Kona Underpants Run was born as a form of protest and satire against wearing Speedo attire anywhere but Dig Me Beach or the local Kona swimming pools. Paul Huddle, Tim Morris, and Chris Danahy broke out their best pairs of tighty-whitey underwear and jogged up and down Ali’i Drive as part of the first #UPR 

The first Underpants Run in Kona gained interest and became a viral event before YouTube and Facebook. Over the next two years, Underpants Runs popped up at other Ironman triathlons and each year, the event gained more participants (and spectators.)

Triathletes running down Ali'i Drive during the 2019 Kona Underpants Run
Triathletes jog down Ali’i Drive during the Kona Underpants Run

The Kona Underpants Run has become a big fundraiser for local charities in Kona. According to the UPR website, the “race” raises money for:

  • Visitor Aloha Society of Hawai’i (VASH)
  • West Hawai’i Special Olympics
  • Ahu’ena Heiau restoration project

In its twenty-plus years, the Kona Underpants Run has raised over $300,000 for these charities from “race” entry fees and from clothing sales.

child in diapers during the Kona Underpants Run
Someone thought it was the Kona Diapers Run…

Kona Underpants Run Rules (Original Version)

Event rules are the same that they were in ’98: 

1. Any version of white “mommy underwear” (also known as tighty whities, y-fronts, briefs, etc.) is permitted. Good sources include Duofold’s performance briefs made with Coolmax Alta or any variety of cotton three-packs available at Wal-Mart and other fine stores. 
2. No boxers, long underwear, or stylish Euro-bikini briefs permitted. 
3. Route must be completed by running, walking, or crawling. Heart rate monitors, black or argyle socks, bad hats, and earrings are optional. 
4. While this event is considered a “moderately paced parade” rather than a “race”, pacing strategies are up to the participant. 
5. No awards will be presented. 
6. No aid stations will be provided. 
7. Other rules to be decided as issues arise. 
8. Rules committee (Tim Morris, Slice, Huddle, and Roch Frey) reserve the right to make things up as they go along. 
9. All are welcome regardless of age, species (dog’s welcome), gender, race, religious beliefs and/or nationality. 

From the website