Running Naked on the South Beltline
by Don Kern
The first section of a new bypass around the south side of Grand Rapids
officially opened for vehicular traffic Wednesday, Nov. 21. The previous
Sunday, however, saw some traffic of a different kind.
A group of a dozen runners from a local running club realized it was
the last chance to run on the new five-mile section of freeway known
locally as the South Beltline, more formally as the Paul B. Henry Freeway
(M-6). We met at eight. Sunday morning in the pea-soup fog at Cascade Park
southeast of Grand Rapids to begin our running odyssey. Steph positioned
her van just over five miles west on Broadmoor (M-37) to shuttle the
people who didn't want to do the whole out-and-back loop.
About three miles out, Big John started to laugh, "You know what would
be funny as heck? Running naked on the South Beltline." Shawn was riding
beside us on his bike, and the Little Mexican, David was running with us
as well. We had a good laugh at the suggestion, but the next thing we
knew, Big John lost the shirt and running shorts. He ran about a quarter
mile, enjoying the fresh, foggy air.
Already coming back on the other side, the fast guys in the group
caught a bit of John's show. Scott, the red-headed skinny guy decided to
get in on the act as well, so we then had naked guys running both sides of
We ran west to Broadmoor, went south and then back up the ramp on the
other side, heading east. After about a mile, just Big John and I were
running together, and it occurred to me--this is the only chance I'll ever
have to run naked on the South Beltline. What the heck. I stripped down to
just my running shoes and water-bottle belt. There I was, running naked
down the freeway in the middle of November.
Some of the girls were walking just one way on the course, and, as fate
would have it, we saw them off in the distance through the fog. It was,
however, too late to do anything about it by that time, so we decided to
run by them as quickly as possible and make the best of it. We met them
just as they were crossing over to the west-bound lanes.
Shawn had met the ladies a few minutes earlier and was riding along
beside them. He tells the story:
"'Who are those two coming this way?,' one of the ladies asked. 'Are
those runners? It's hard to tell in the fog.' "I said, 'Yes. From their
strides, it looks like Big John on the left and Marathon Don on the
"As the two figures got closer, coming out of the fog someone
exclaimed, 'Are they?' 'They're not!' 'Yes, they're naked!' They came
running by us with their clothes in hand and other body parts freely
swaying in the wind! People shouted and applauded as the two streaked by."
"It was surreal," one of the girls said, "Two Greek-god-like
silhouettes appearing out of the fog, totally naked." OK, that may be a
slight misquote. Actually, I think somebody said, "I thought they called
him BIG John?!"
After passing the girls, we put our clothes back on. Shawn made sure
the girls got to the van, then headed back out on his bike to catch up
with us. We were a couple miles from the end, when suddenly Shawn
screamed, "SHRINKAGE!!" as he blazed by on the bicycle, naked as a
The First South Beltline Naked Run ended uneventfully, with no one
getting arrested. The fog here in Grand Rapids kept us from seeing the
Leonid meteor shower Sunday morning. But someone DID report seeing a FULL
and the adventure continues....