“See if you can beat Emma James!” crowed the Naturist Foundation via twitter last September, knowing that I’m all over the web like a rash, sporty and I was booked in on the BHnude5K .
I groaned. I might enjoy running but I’m so slow, my son can run faster than me backwards! What I lose in speed, I gain in endurance but you wouldn’t have known it last September. I’d have given up half way through, if it wasn’t for the fact it was a race,
In recent years, my running has varied from spluttering starts to regular training. At one stage I was running up to 2 hours 20 minutes. That’s what I now strive for but I’m currently in spluttering mode, aided and abetted by insomnia.
I favour running solo, seeking out woods and trails like a bloodhound. With my infamous sense of direction (ask my children Alice and Arthur) I’m limited to running in one direction and then at the appointed landmark, increase my distance by a field or two, turn tail and run back.
Unencumbered by modern day trappings; keys/phone. I carry water and when I run far enough to justify it, hydration tabs, stripping off as I go along and on my return, retrieving clothing.
The BHnude5K provided the first official opportunity I’ve had to run naked and I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about running nude on the day even though I’m a pretty hard core naturist because my breasts are normally bound up in a sports bra. Knowing this was a rare chance to run naked, outdoors and not get lost! I decided to dispense with the bra and stood in line, waiting to be marked up with a fetching shade of red lippy.
It was a glorious day on 21 September 2014, just as it was on 17 May 2014 for the most recent BHnude5K. I’d travelled a short distance from my sister’s nearby where I stayed overnight with the family so I was refreshed, having turfed nephew Tom out of his bed for the night. Not my decision. Poor Tom.
The first thing that struck me about the Naturist Foundation was the scale of the site which boasts around fifty acres of lush green English countryside and the range of amenities which naturists expect and hope for.
The large community hall, containing a thriving cafe and bar, also houses the office where race participants were being duly ticked off on arrival and routed through to collect their numbers. Organised by Dave Walton, the race has been running for a number of years and is meticulously planned.
I’m not sure how many we numbered in total last September. In the region of 60 runners I believe but this May, Brockenhurst had a record 110 entrants. Dave is excellent at getting the word out via various forums on the internet and leverages the Runners World chat forums to great effect where the prospect of a nude run raises the standard good humoured banter but also generates interest and participants.
Lined up at the start, I started chatting to an affable wirey man who wasn’t a naturist but entered the race along with the rest of us, in naturist mode and having completed the race reverted to ‘textile’ mode.
I hadn’t been training actively in the weeks leading up to the race and was sharing my qualms with Richard? (I have a dreadful memory for names) who kindly offered to run with me. I think he was joking because he sailed past me pretty quickly and ended up as the ultimate winner.
The route wends itself around the woods encircling Brockenhurst’s amenities and was well marshalled. Members of the club lined the route to encourage and point us in the right direction or added good humoured quips from the relative comfort of their deckchairs, as we periodically came out into the bowels of the site itself and ran through the static camping areas.
Although I hadn’t been training consistently, I was surprised how awful I felt on the run. Even the water at checkpoints wasn’t helping and I was uncharacteristically breathless. What I hadn’t appreciated was that I was sickening for a bug and in retrospect, I could well have been running a temperature. Like most sporty people though, I was damned if I was going to give up and finally trailed in with the final few runners at a desultory 35 minutes and 21 seconds. At least that time should be easy to beat for future runs :).
Dave Walton, having now re-assigned himself as photographer, was skirting the course, snapping participants who were willing to be papped and presided over the awards ceremony. My certificate has been on display in my bedroom since, along with an official post race picture. Relieved and very pink.
I spent a convivial few hours after the race chatting with a club stalwart Dennis and meandering around the club, taking pictures. Of all the pictures I took that day, this one has to be my favourite
Housed in a spacious corrugated barn were about six table tennis tables (memory failure again) and two naturists, Russell and Shane enjoying a game. I could easily see a tournament taking place here.
The Naturist Foundation hold regular events and have an active social programme in place so it’s not just runners who are catered for. This coming weekend, 22-25th May, there’s the annual Spring Bash, the 25-28 June is the highly regarded Jazz and Real Ale Festival and during the summer holidays, Billy’s activity week is between 21-30 August.
An artistic club, they attract musicians and artists and hold regular plays which are lavish affairs, supported by clubs members and friends and family.
The facilities at Brockenhurst mean that a wide range of sports are played out on a regular basis. I didn’t take any pictures of their fabulous pool on the day I was there out of courtesy because in common with many naturist clubs, there’s invariably someone in the pool and you have to respect individual discretion. Not everyone is happy to be featured.
I’m looking forward to a return match and have marked the next BHnude5K in my diary on 27 September 2015. It will also give me chance to spend time with my sister, husband and her five children.
“Aunty Em” as I’m known, enjoys turning up to visit with presents accumulated in the intervening months. My children are too old to spoil like that anymore. After returning, with presents duly dispensed Aunty Em retired, planning to return to Bucks on the Monday with a full working week on the cards. It wasn’t to be. My sister ended up with yet another person to look after! I woke up with no voice and a raging temperature so naturally I attributed my dismal performance to the bug I was evidently brewing. A fair assessment? We’ll have to see.
Naturist Foundation @natfound: http://www.naturistfoundation.org/
BHnude5K, May 2015: http://bit.ly/Ysx8UB
Runners World @runnersworld (online): http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/forum/
Runners World (magazine): http://bit.ly/1LnnDc9