Detroit. Young things in their underwear. Snow. Combine them, and you’ve got one hot Saturday in February.
Yes, dear ones, it’s time again for Cupid’s Undie Run. It is a titillating, titanic trial of how well a thong can stand up to friction and freezing temperatures. But I digress.
Detroit’s sophomore event promises to be another great fund-raising, life-saving, do-gooder excuse for showing off your pecs and more through the city’s downtown corridor. And the reminding spots in this epic run doing your best “Captain Underwear” impression are going fast. So if you haven’t signed up already, you have until Feb. 15 (Race Day) to register.
But, as organizer John Marcicky told me, there are only 55 spots left. And that is of 1,000 available positions in the race, which will start at 2 p.m. that Saturday. Base camp is at the Fillmore; racers will cruise down Woodward Avenue, circle around Grand Circus Park and back to base until 4 p.m. (or later, I’d guess).
So what is this Undie Run all about? Well, it is a brilliant mix of serious and silly. Last year, there were about 450 registered runners helping to raise awareness and money to combat a rare disease. But our state’s team brought in $130,000 – one of the highest totals in the nation.
That fund-raising power came both through the teams and through Quicken Loans. The company’s leader, Dan Gilbert, matched donations of up to $500 – doubling them to $1,000. He’s doing the same this year, ensuring Detroit will once again reign supreme in terms of its kindness and cojones for running in their nearly nothingness.
Back to Marcicky. His title at Quicken Loans is, in part, Race Director at Cupid’s Undie Run Detroit. That’s how seriously the company takes this effort. And that is because Gilbert’s son has the very disease that the race hopes to end in his lifetime. More on that in a second.
Marcicky took on the role willingly, and he has since then met with all of the other race directions nationally. He loves the passion everyone has locally for the event, and he knows the emotions will be running high Feb. 15 – even if the temperatures won’t be.
There are sponsors a plenty for this thing. There certainly are high-energy runners and teams (including such names as Gettin Nekkid In D’s Streets, Skivvy Skippers and Grundos. I don’t even want to know what that last one is all about).
“It’s a bucket list thing for people. When in your life can you say you ran in your underwear in the freezing cold temp of February in Detroit?” Marcicky asked. When, indeed.
Here’s how it works. The event has three elements: A pre-race party, a one-mile-ish undie run and an after-party. The event is held every year on the Saturday closest to Valentine’s Day. You have to be at least 21 to run. You can be any shape or size or level of physical fitness. It’s nice if you’re buff, but it’s the effort (and money) that counts here. The organizers aim to keep everything PG-13…yet it might be best to keep Junior away from certain rule breakers.
This year, an estimated 20,000 runners in 32 cities across the United States and three cities in Australia will participate in Cupid’s Undie Run. Runners can go as individuals or as a team. So many people all baring their bodies and wallets for a cause easily makes it the world’s largest underwear run, the organizers say. Although I’m hard pressed to say who would contest this title.
Businesses of all kinds are involved: MeUndies (national sponsor), Run Detroit, After 5, Come Play Detroit, Fathead, LA Fitness, Red Bull. The Fillmore. Moosejaw. The Detroit Tigers Foundation. Lots of media partners are stepping up as well. Plus, there will be more on site on race day.
“It’s exciting to see all these people downtown but it also says something about the people fundraising. These are Detroit’s up and comers, and they’re part of the philanthropy that is changing Detroit,” Marcicky said. “They do will prizes for fund raising, but they’re taking the challenge seriously. They’re going far above and beyond that.”
Why do people strip nearly bare and expose themselves to not only frostbite but public scrutiny? It’s to stop a horrible, cruel disease called Neurofibromatosis (NF), a genetic disorder that allows tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body. These tumors can lead to blindness, deafness, learning disabilities, cancer and chronic pain. An estimated two million people have NF, which requires them to go through many, many, many medical procedures throughout their lives.
Background: The idea came about in 2010 between three friends. One of them, Chad Leathers, had a brother, Drew, who had CF. The severity of it caused him to be hospitalized, spending 183 days there and to be bedridden for the rest of that year. Together with friends Brendan Hanrahan and Bobby Gill, they created an event aimed at supporting research to eliminate NF. (One of Dan Gilbert’s sons, Nick, also has NF. That is why his commitment to the races in Detroit and Cleveland is so massive and admirable.)
The first Cupid’s Undie run took place in Washington D.C. Those 650 runners – much like the first group of Detroiters last year – sprinted through six feet of snow. To date, Cupid’s Undie Run was donated just under $2 million to research via the Children’s Tumor Foundation, a non-profit organization that focuses on NF. That’s non-profit power.
So grab your team. Strap on those shoes. Pull out your best lingerie. It’s for the crowds. Nah. It’s for the kids. Nah. It’s for doing what’s right and having fun in the process. And that’s pretty great.