Time: 31:39 (don’t judge, we were hungover and armless)
Way back at the beginning of the year, there was an event that kept popping up all over facebook: The BH5k Naked Run. The BH5k is a bi-annual run set in Orpington, Kent, at a naturist reserve hidden away down a quaint English country lane. Ny (possibly joking) suggested that she we should sign up for it, and not being one to back away from a challenge I told her I would love to. She is apparently also one to not back away from a challenge, and before we knew it, budget flights were booked, and we were both entered.
THE NIGHT BEFORE THE MORNING AFTER
As the date crept closer, we decided that we would make a weekend out of it, and opted to stay in Brighton the night before, as neither of us had ever been, and if ever there was a weekend for new and unusual experiences, this was it. Which brings me to our accommodation – essentially a dungeon bedroom in an ‘artist’s studio’ that claims to have been part of a film set (I can only imagine what type of film…). The room was positively brimming with artistic depictions of a very specific part of the female anatomy, so much so that the nudist run paled in comparison.
When we arrived we were greeted by our friendly AirBnB host, who informed us she had a ‘private show’ on at 7. Ny’s face was a picture when we were told we could keep our belongings safe with a padlock for our room (combination 666). And when we were told the bathroom had no lock so we could stand guard for one another. And when our room was invaded by the owner’s cats. And when we realized the ‘shower room’ had no door. And when we discovered the wigs and the whipping paddle hanging from the bedposts. Considering this is what initially greeted us when we arrived, we decided to venture into Brighton town centre in search of food and alcohol:
We found a decent burger joint and as luck would have it, we arrived during happy hour. Ny was straight onto the (lethally strong) cocktails, and I started sinking back the beers. From there, the drinking never really veered off course for the remainder of the night.
After dinner we walked to Brighton Pier, taking a ride on the Haunted House and realizing that our room for the night would put it to shame. Then we continued drinking. We started off with a nice little English pub before attempting – unsuccessfully – to locate a karaoke joint, being drawn eventually towards the bright lights of a gay bar. For men. Where we were both surprisingly chatted up. By a man. It turns out his style of picking up women involves making himself the only available option. It was not his lucky night.
After a quick drink there, things started getting fuzzier, and we found ourselves throwing some shapes in a club on the dance floor. Eventually, we had both had enough booze to warrant a return to our dungeon room, and we stumbled into the night to begin our ‘scenic’ route home.
Excellent race day prep.
Ny and I were both gently roused by the dulcet sounds of my phone alarms a few hours after we’d managed to get to sleep feeling fairly rough. All normal race day problems were avoided as we had no kit to double check apart from trainers. After we packed up our stuff, we went through to say goodbye to our host (who was still partying with her friends from the night before), before finding our hire car, taking a moment to reflect, and setting off for a morning of nudity.
Ny had the horrific task of driving us hungover, and after a quick Asda stop to pick up a snack and a courtesy towel for me we found ourselves at the gates of the Naturist reserve being ushered to our parking space by a man who was completely in the buff apart from shoes and a high-viz vest that did little to protect his modesty. If anything, it drew your eyes to it.
After we had parked we had to queue to show photo ID, and then it was back to the car to undress. We were both so hungover that being naked was the least of our worries: would we get around the course without puking? Would we be warm enough? Would running sans sports bra work out for us? We chatted to some of the other runners, had our numbers marked on us with lipstick, and found ourselves a bit surprised at how many younger runners were there (as it turns out, a local running club had decided to join the naked party). According to the post-race e-mail, there were 141 runners ranging from 8-81!
A bit later than expected, we were all ushered onto a small field for an informal race briefing. The course consists of 2 laps around the small field, followed by three laps through the woods. Ny and I had originally planned to go all out, as previous results indicated that few women took part and we’d have a shot of coming top three, but the hangover won, and we decided to just jog round together. The fact that 90% of the women had opted to wear a sports bra was mildly concerning, but after the standard 3-2-1 countdown we became – immediately – very aware of our error in judgment in choosing to be purists.
Ny adopted a single arm technique that looked a bit like her arm was in an invisible sling, but I went for the ‘double cup’ chicken wing method. To whoever invented sports bras, I thank you. We both underestimated just how much work a simple garment can do, and it was our shoulders that were really starting to burn first. Every time we passed a crowd of supporters or an official photographer they all offered the same tip, “Next time wear a sports bra!” We had learnt our lesson.
About half an hour after we had set off, Ny and I crossed the finish line, essentially groping ourselves. We were handed a position chip, our numbers were taken, and then we were free to enjoy the facilities for the rest of the morning. We went for a dip in the heated pool, but when a guy started doing laps WITH GOGGLES ON we took that as our cue to shower.
The showers were communal, and we were chatting away to one of the local guys and a woman who offered us use of her loofah to try and scrub off the lipstick, with minimal success. We also noticed that the showers had floor to ceiling windows, and we could look out at people sunbathing and enjoying the barbecued food outside. This all just seemed normal, and it was only when we had put clothes back on that we both felt self-conscious!
Everyone was really friendly, and after picking up a tip for a place to go for lunch, we bid farewell to the sea of naked bodies and left. Following lunch and a riverside walk, we checked out the Thames estuary, and the final resting place of Pocahontas, before starting our homeward journey.
It was a unique way to spend a Sunday morning (and Saturday night), and everyone was so warm and welcoming that I would recommend doing the 5k to anyone. Although I had an amazing weekend, I don’t feel the need to shed my clothes for another running event any time soon, and I definitely would not want to repeat that kind of run with a hangover. I’d say it’s a 10/10 for cementing a friendship though: