If you happen to be standing at the corner of College and Tryon streets in uptown on Saturday, don’t be alarmed by the grown men and women streaking down the street in their underwear. It’s just a charity thing.
More specifically: It’s Charlotte’s third annual Cupid’s Undie Run, part of a series of events in more than three dozen cities that serves as a fundraiser for the Children’s Tumor Foundation, which assists kids and families affected by neurofibromatosis. Also called NF, the condition causes tumors to form in the brain, spinal cord and nerves.
But so what does running in your skivvies have to do with a frightening disorder for which there is no cure? We posed this question and others to Shanna Nelson, an NF parent who was the race director of the event in its first two years in Charlotte and continues to volunteer with the foundation.
“People with neurofibromatosis can’t cover up their tumors, they can’t feel comfortable whenever they want to, they pretty much spend their entire lives uncomfortable in their own skin,” Nelson says. As the website says: “They can’t put clothes on to feel more comfortable, so why should we?” The catchphrase organizers often use to promote the event is “freezin’ for a reason,” but there won’t be much freezin’ on Saturday – the forecast is calling for temperatures near 70 for the start of the run, under partly sunny skies.
Oh wow, so I can break out the short-shorts, eh?
Sure, as long as they’re not too scandalous. “No pasties, no thongs,” Nelson says. “It has to full-coverage underwear. We want you to have the best day ever, but it’s a charity event and so keep that in mind when you come... Most of the time, you don’t see much more revealing than a sports bra on women. Men might shave their chest hair into hearts. But people think that it’s this crazy risque run, and it’s really not. People wear funny costumes, people wear full-on onesies. You’re not gonna see anything too crazy.”
But have people been turned away because they didn’t meet, um, minimum dress-code requirements?
Occasionally. “We will gracefully ask if they have something else to put on,” Nelson says. If for some reason they don’t, “we often have extra volunteer T-shirts. We’ve given those away... to help them cover up.”
What if I’m on the other end of the spectrum? What if I’m shy about my body?
It’s OK. “I think sometimes people worry about being self-conscious because of the underwear aspect, but truly, as long as it’s not too risque, no one really cares what you wear,” Nelson says. “Wear running clothes. It’s about having a good time and celebrating that fundraising that’s been happening.”
Why is this run only a mile long, and why is it not timed?
“Because ... it’s a ‘brief’ run – pun intended,” Nelson says. “Plus, we have a lot of people with NF who are at the event, and they may not be able to run. And it’s not timed because we don’t want to put a lot of pressure on the logistics of being the fastest runner. (Instead), we give awards to our highest fundraisers and (top) fundraising teams.” Besides, she says: The focus is on the party.
Yeah, did I hear this right – participants get free booze??
Well, there will be an open bar from noon to 4 p.m., but it’s only available to participants who raised at least $250 for the Children’s Tumor Foundation. All others pay cash for their drinks.
Can my 20-year-old girlfriend run it?
Nope. Sorry. “If you’re under 21,” Nelson says, “you can certainly hold up fun signs along the race route and cheer everyone on, but because of the nature of the event, it’s 21 and up.”
Cupid’s Undie Run
When: Doors open and the party starts at noon; the run starts at 2 p.m., then the party goes till 4.
Where: Suite at the EpiCentre, 210 E. Trade St., Suite 300A.
Expected participation: Last year, about 400 people ran.
Beneficiary: Children’s Tumor Foundation. In the first two years, the Charlotte race raised $260,000 for NF research.
More details: http://cupidsundierun.org/city/charlotte.