It will be very clear from this blog that I am a confirmed proponent of running sans shirt, or in jogbra in the case of women. Many comments have come in either in support of this position (along with some pretty critical ones) - but every once in a while someone will suggest taking the next step: Why not run nude?
Now of course, in many parts of the world, there is a simple answer to the question: If you tried to in pretty much any precinct, you would soon be in the clink. But in some 'enlightened' places, and certainly in specific colonies, you could indeed choose to shed every last thread.
I have never ventured to do so and do not intend to. This is not because I have any lack of respect for those of the nudist persuasion. Indeed, perhaps some of us who have converted to shirtlessness are indeed travellers on a journey that - in the fulness of time - will lead to the embracing of nakedness as the ideal. But that path is not one I see my myself treading.
First of all, I do not see shirtless running as essentially some sort of 'half-way point'. The freedom that I feel when I go bare-chested on my runs will not, I don't think, be materially enhanced by the mere discarding of yet more articles of clothing. I feel spiritually recharged when trotting along and have to my mind reached a prefect balance between comfort and modesty. To be in quest of yet 'more of a good thing' by looking to go yet barer seems pointless. Indeed, it seems to me that the realities of human biology mean that being totally 'freed of constraint' when running might be distinctly uncomfortable for many of us, as it becomes a case of being 'free of support'.
Secondly, I am precisely a proponent of shirtless running because to my mind it is something that anyone can embrace in almost all communities, and at any age - hence that 'caramaderie' that I have written of that unites all shirtless and jogbraed runners. Even in more conservative quarters, shirtlessness is seldom considered so outrageous a phenomenon as to provoke outright hostility (at most, it typically evokes a tut-tutting of disapproval); were more individuals to embrace a shirtless identity, we can imagine attitudes being further modified, though there would be no radical shift. Such a degree of acceptance - actual or at least potential - would be very dramatically shattered if we were to now espouse nudism: A decided majority would part company from the minority.
Thirdly, the 'sensuous buzz' that many cite as a benefit of running shirtless - others have described it as 'feeling sexy' or sensual - is, to my mind, bound up with the fact that we are choosing to both simultaneously expose part of our anatomy and yet cover up another part. . We project the confidence of being willing to 'go this far', and the confidence to say 'this is just enough'. Art, someone once said, is all about knowing when to stop. I'm right where I want to be.