NAPLES — Dan Broughton made a point of wearing his black jeans, black T-shirt and black leather vest to downtown Naples on Friday night.
He needed all the black leather he could scrounge up to validate his masculinity while running around in a pair of purple high heels.
Broughton, 63, a Navy veteran, engineer and biker, was one of at least 400 people who slipped on heels to run in the stiletto sprint, a race down Park Street to raise money for the Garden of Hope and Courage and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The race kicked off Breast Cancer Awareness month.
“I didn’t fall,” Broughton said proudly after the race. “One of the guys out there who had a shorter set of heels said they made my butt look big.”
Of the 163 people who pre-registered, organizers said at least 40 were men, including Naples City Councilman Gary Price — all 6 feet, 6 inches of him. No doubt about it, the men stole the show.
Price, who wears a size 13 shoe, sported a pair of bright pink heels on Friday. He started at the front of the pack, but shuffled slowly down the road, finishing near the rear.
“It’s the story of my life,” Price said, struggling onward even as most of the other racers had finished. “It’s a Cinderella story. I think I can still win this thing. There’s no quit in this guy.”
Mayor Bill Barnett was impressed.
“Someone with his stature and size and great sense of humor, it’s absolutely awesome that he’s doing it,” Barnett said.
Price told organizers he would run if they could raise $10,000. It wasn’t immediately clear how much they raised Friday, but organizers seemed happy with the turnout. Racers paid a $20 registration fee to participate, and many raised more than that.
“I don’t think we expected quite this many people,” said Amy Lane, executive director of the Garden of Hope and Courage.
Like Price, John Merriwether, 44, who works for Naples-based Health Management Associates Inc., wobbled down the road in pink heels. Anything to raise breast cancer awareness, he said.
“I have a lot more respect for women who wear high heels now,” Merriwether said.
The fastest man in the race was 36-year-old Brian Rydzinksi, while the fastest female was 13-year-old Aubrey Howard, both of Naples. They were each given a small prize for their victory.
Paul Wharen, 64, of Bonita Springs, wore pink Mary Jane heels that he found at Goodwill. His wife and daughter cheered him on.
“The women threw down the challenge,” Wharen said. “We don’t know if I’m brave or if I’m crazy.”
After the race, the trees in Sugden Plaza were lit with twinkling pink lights. Two Rockettes did a Rockette-kick countdown to the lighting.
__ Connect with Ryan Mills at www.naplesnews.com/staff/ryan-mills/