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Sunday, February 25, 2024

Students strip for homeless, run in ‘underwear dash’

<p><span id="docs-internal-guid-ec2ebd95-79ea-f7b2-6eba-d8ef59dea87f"><span>Mackenzie Conol, 21, addresses a crowd of about 35 people before running the Great Underwear Dash Spring 2017. The goal of the event is to collect clothes for donation to the St. Francis House in Gainesville, located at 413 S. Main St.</span></span></p>

Mackenzie Conol, 21, addresses a crowd of about 35 people before running the Great Underwear Dash Spring 2017. The goal of the event is to collect clothes for donation to the St. Francis House in Gainesville, located at 413 S. Main St.

Dressed in nothing but neon-pink lingerie and sneakers, UF student Mackenzie Conol spent her Friday night running across campus, drawing stares and honks.

She was joined on her jog by about 35 other near-naked students, some in boxers, briefs and spandex. Their goal, participants said, was to donate clothing to a local homeless shelter and embrace insecurities.

Before stripping down and taking off on The Great Underwear Dash, which lasted about five minutes, a tradition at UF since at least Spring 2005, they gathered six bags of clothing to donate to the St. Francis House.

For Conol, a UF industrial and systems engineering junior, each stride reminded her of high school, a span of two years in which she was homeless. The event allows her to address an issue close to her heart.

“It’s my favorite day of the semester,” the 21-year-old said.

Conol and Dakotah Diaz, 21, organized this semester’s race after participating in the race two years ago.

Participants met on Turlington Plaza, where they stripped down and then took off, running a lap through Turlington toward University Avenue, turning around the new chemistry building and back to the plaza. Cars honked as participants ran down University, and students walking through campus gave the group curious stares.

Diaz, who wore black briefs and neon-green running shoes, said while he uses the run to donate to charity, he has also made some close friends during past dashes in the past two years that he has participated.

“It brings people together,” the UF business administration junior said.

Removing clothing breaks down people’s barriers, and runners bond through their shared vulnerability, he said.

“It’s a really big self-esteem booster,” Diaz said.

Jack Rasmussen, a 19-year-old UF computer science freshman, came prepared with his Marine Corp. flag tied around his neck as a cape.

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Rasmussen said he was at the front of the pack as he ran down University Avenue with his hands up in the air, collecting a single honk.

“I didn’t get (physical training) today, so I felt like I needed to get a workout in,” he said. “What a better way than running down University in your underwear?”

A group of four graduating seniors wore fluffy panda hats to accompany their black and pink bras and underwear.

Carolina Cardona, a 24-year-old UF industrial and systems engineering senior, said Friday was her first time on campus in just her underwear.

She said the group of friends decided to add the panda accessory as “an extra touch” to their senior bucket-list run.

“I can’t believe we did that,” she said. 

Contact Paige Fry at pfry@alligator.org and follow her on Twitter at @paigexfry

Mackenzie Conol, 21, addresses a crowd of about 35 people before running the Great Underwear Dash Spring 2017. The goal of the event is to collect clothes for donation to the St. Francis House in Gainesville, located at 413 S. Main St.

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