WAIT FOR ME YOUSE GUYS (photo courtesy CBS6Albany.com)

Last Saturday, I joined a throng a thongs and Santa hats to partake in the 5th Annual Santa Speedo Sprint.

It was an awkward and terrifying experience. Not for the other people at the Sprint or the event itself, but for the mental anguish I put myself through leading up to the event.

As a bit of background: earlier in the week, a reader – Em – brought to my attention that she along with several others were running in the Sprint, and I said I’d do what I could to raise some cash. I did a couple blog postings encouraging people to donate.

One comment suggested that I’d raise more money if I also ran. That led to several messages and texts basically challenging me to do it. At first I ignored them, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was true: if I upped the ante and agreed to run myself, it’d raise more money than if I didn’t.

This led to my Irish Catholic upbringing creating a guilt complex, and I basically felt an obligation from that point on to do this.

So I agreed to do it, but ONLY if my readers and friends went to the AASRD Jeerleaders’ donation page and helped them meet their goal of $500.

Which you  did, because you’re all either great and charitable, or you’re all terrible human beings who want nothing more than to see me suffer.

See more photos: the Times Union’s SEEN | All Over Albany  | CBS 6

Thus began my saga of stripping down to my underwear in a gay bar and running away as fast as I can.

I was terrified at the prospect of revealing my body to that many people. I’ve never been very comfortable in my own skin, and I’ve detailed my issues with weight in the past. But I also knew that if I want improvement and personal growth, I can’t allow insecurities and anxiety to prevent me from doing those things that could benefit myself and, more importantly, others.

So I swallowed my pride and reminded myself that it was for charity.

The night before the race, I ritualistically laid out the items I would need: my red boxer-briefs, weight lifting gloves, and a red striped tie. I figured I could use the red tie, which passed as Christmasy due to its colors, to have some fun with it (I wasn’t going to wear a Santa hat). The weight lifting gloves are the result of a promise I made to local blogger derryX that I would wear them in tribute to former professional wrestler and MMA color commentator Bill Goldberg (for no particular reason other than it was an amusing non-sequitur).

I spent about twenty minutes lying awake in bed. I was unable to sleep, nervous about what was to come the next morning. I finally gave up and decided  to put something on Netflix to help pass the time. My fears drifted as I passed into unconsciousness to the images and sounds of British detectives hunting down serial killers.

I woke up the next morning and mentally prepared myself as if I was running a 5K. I did my usual routine of stretches as my quads, which were still in pain from my very first kickboxing class on Thursday night, screamed in protest.

I decided that would be my hook. Instead of focusing on the fact that I was baring myself in front of strangers, I focused on the pain of my quads. Even sitting down provided momentary discomfort, which allowed me to shift concern to how I was going to run with the pain making my usual running stride more difficult.

It wasn’t a competitive or timed race, but it helped to operate as if it was.

I left my apartment at noon and discovered that it wasn’t nearly as cold as I thought it was going to be. It was a small relief, even though the temperature was never really much of a concern. My personal failings always, always, always come via the insecurities and lack of self-esteem I have. For some it’s just being prudish or shy, but anybody who’s known me for longer than it takes to drink a cup of coffee would call bull on such claims.

Before the race with reader Em - who you all helped reach her goal of $500 - and another fellow Albany Jeerleader.

I arrived at the Oh Bar on Lark Street to register and was surprised by a $25 entrant fee. I’m sure it was stated clearly on the website but it somehow got lost, most likely engulfed by all the angst and anxiety I carried with me to the event. Thankfully I had hit the ATM the night before so I could get a proper haircut (thanks, Tragedy).

A half-hour before the race, I put my materials in a safe place with one of the AASRD (Albany All-Star Roller Derby) girls who had given me a heads up she would be there. Then, with a room full of strangers, I stripped down.

Wearing the gloves and the tie actually helped. Even though they covered little, I felt as if I wasn’t as exposed. I didn’t worry as much about the jiggle in my mid-section when I moved, or the contours of my love handles being exposed to everyone and exposing my lack of fitness to any and all females in the area.

Then came the awkward part, where I waited in little clothing amongst a huddled group of strangers for what seemed like an eternity.

I didn’t arrange to meet or run with anyone, having decided from the outset that I would go it alone. I didn’t personally text, call, message or e-mail anyone to tell them I was doing this and that I could use their support. If anybody knew about it, it was from reading the blog or the Facebook and Twitter posts I used to direct people to the donation pages.

Standing exposed and near naked in a room full of strangers who are far superior to me in conditioning and overall fitness, I felt like an alien and unwanted presence. I made conversation with people I knew that I happened to run into, trying to hide the massive sense of shame and anxiety I felt. I don’t think I was very successful, and I’m sure more than one encounter was awkward.

WHOOMP, there it is. (photo courtesy AllOverAlbany.com)

As for the race itself, I ran it. There’s not much to write about, really. When I run, I sort of turn my mind off. I focus on breathing more than anything, which I use in my running to maintain a consistent pace and push myself further.

After the race I once again ran into Em, the reader who first brought my attention to the cause and was the first person to call me out (“Pansy,” she wrote) for not doing the race myself.

“Thanks for bringing my attention to this,” I told her.

“Wait,” she asked. “Are you being sarcastic?”

“Not at all.”

I really wasn’t. I was glad to be able to solicit  some cash for the Albany Damien Center and it re-assuring to find out that I really do have good and generous readers.

On a personal and selfish level, though, I was also glad I had the opportunity to confront a long held fear and insecurity without a complete mental breakdown.

Does that mean I’m fixed or that my fear has diminished? Certainly not. The old cliche goes that the only way to conquer a fear is to confront it, but it takes more than just one confrontation. It’s a constant struggle, one in which one must be ever vigilant but also willing to take a chance in encountering the circumstances that create so much fear and anxiety.

One run in my boxer-briefs isn’t going to make me permanently feel better about myself. It is, however, a small step forward, which is more than I would have taken had I decided to stay in bed covered from head to toe and hidden from the prying eyes of the outside world.

Besides, it’s for charity, right?


20 Responses to Runaround: Foregoing Shame and Self-Esteem for Charity at the Santa Speedo Sprint

  1. Em says:

    This was such a good time! Except for that hour or so when that dude wouldn’t stop bopping me in the head with a stuffed tiger…
    Aaanyway. I’m proud of you for running and proud of AASRD for all the funds we raised (combined total of over $2000!)
    Again next year?!

    • We’ll see!

      Congratulations and a big thanks to you, the Jeerleaders, and the All-Stars themselves for all your efforts and support. Good time had by all.

      This is the first I’m hearing of the dude with the tiger. Must’ve missed that, though I’m not sure how, since it was a dude was hitting people with a stuffed tiger.

  2. slilly says:

    I believe I may have a pic or 2 of your maiden Speedo sprint in my slideshow. Good job for a great charity.

  3. B says:

    That’s Tigs Timberwolf (the tiger). He has a Facebook page. The bopper is a buddy of mine. Good job on the fundraising, Kevin.

  4. KCDC says:

    Thanks for coming out and for all the AASRD love!

  5. CoolMom says:

    Kudos to you for your brutal HONESTY about your physical misgivings and not giving in to those fears. BIGGER kudos for posting the pic of you running, backed up your words. Great job for a great cause…

  6. Alan says:

    Kevin – Knowing what I now know about your lifelong struggles with body image, I think it’s even more admirable that you ran this race. You may reference “personal and selfish” reasons as part of the impetus for having done it, but all I see is a guy brave and generous enough to go way outside of his comfort zone to support a cause and help other people out. That’s the kind of handsome that trumps an impossibly-buff body any day.

  7. Big kudos to you! You are very brave and great job raising money.

  8. Skeeter says:

    Tigs Timberwolf is awesome! Em, you should feel honored to have been bopped!

  9. derryX says:

    The Goldberg gloves were a great touch!

    I would have never been able to do this, even back in 2005 at my fittest.

  10. Cute~Ella says:

    I’m proud of you kiddo.

  11. Rich says:

    I’m the dude that ran with Tigs. I don’t recall using him as blunt instrument or any of this bopping business. I thought he was quite well-behaved but he went out with another group of ne’er-do-wells later in the day so I lost track. Anyhow Em, if I indeed bopped with you with a Tiger I wholeheartedly apologize.

    Tigs is also a little sensitive about the term “stuffed”. Organically-challenged is much more PC.

  12. Sue says:

    You deserve much credit for putting your…er…tie where your mouth is and running the race. Congrats!

  13. -S says:

    Very nice, kudos. If one needed even further proof, you are at the 1:42 mark in this video,leaving the Naked Cowboy behind.

  14. babyJoey says:

    Hi uncle Kevin. m, klmk,m,dm,., rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

  15. HomeTownGirl says:

    You should be very proud of yourself Kevin. Kudos to you!

  16. MellFire says:

    I had at blast at the Speedo Sprint, you were a good sport! It’s nice to put a name with an underpant sporting guy. We were missing those gals, Em and the other one from our team photo. We were the BANY ALLSTARS, because the A and L were missing.

  17. Lissa says:

    I just made a donation in your honor – I’m proud of you!

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