The History and Tradition of The Central Run
Central University has a certain yearly tradition that takes place right before winter break begins. They call it the Central Run, although the locals tend to call it the Naked Run, because it more accurately described what happens. A collection of university students (and sometime even some staff members) strip bare and run across campus and through part of the town. This has been going on since the mid-80s, although some scattered stories tell of a few similar things happening as isolated events throughout the 60s and 70s.
The real origin of the current Central Run was during 1986, as a protest against the corporatization of numerous aspects of the university. Mainly it was allowing outside sources to come into campus and set up shops that upset the protest groups. The general growing level of corporate culture in America and the seeming level of "greed" it was driven by (later reinforced by the movie 'Wall Street' with the quote "Greed is good.") was the main problem they were upset with. The privatization of certain campus activities was just the straw that broke the camels back.
The first run was fewer than two dozen students and only ran through the main part of campus. As the privatization grew and prices and problem increased, seemingly connected to it, the following year's protest was nearly twice as strong. They like to think it was due to their protests, which were greater than just the run, but within three years the privatization of campus facilities was cancelled and things returned to normal. The run, however, still happened the following year, supposedly as a celebration of their victory.
Not wanting to see such a fun event come to a stop, the protest groups sought out other causes to protest against, and not just campus related ones. By the early 90s they became about the Gulf War. In the mid-90s they started to bounce between numerous different animal, environmental, and world event reasons. It became more about finding an excuse to keep the run going than it was about whatever they were covering that year. Many of the students in each run didn't even know what these runs were about when asked about them by local reporters.
It was also in the early 90s that the run started to leave the campus, just following the road around the outside at first. By the late 90s it was traveling down some of the lakeside roads and trails. At first some of the locals complained about the indecency of these annual events, even trying to have the runners arrested. After a couple hearings on the subject, in 1998 and early 99, the town council upheld their right to hold the run under the rules of free speech. That year's run, in winter of 99, was the largest yet. It was also the first to take the run downtown on one of the main streets.
It was around this time, after all the coverage the hearings got in the local news, that the runs started to get a strong local following. Large crowds of locals started lining the streets along the proposed path, including a growing number of venders and others trying to profit off the event like it was some kind of fair. The runners don't seem to have an issue with this, even though the whole annual event started because of corporate greed.
As the number of runners grew, so did the number of spectators and related events. As the dates moved into the 2000s, and Central University started to institute their new regulations and rules, the run became more connected to them as a celebratory protest against what some saw as a misuse of the rules and others saw as a fun time. These changes also saw the number of people taking part grow exponentially, reaching a height in the hundreds of naked runners in recent years.
The event became a party and the loosened regulations in the town allowed it become more active in the community. Many businesses even started holding special Naked Run sales and celebration deals. Some even petitioned the town council and the university to change the route of the run to pass down certain main streets in front of their locations. With the growing popularity of the run the town had to start blocking off the roads and assigning police to watch the route, to keep everything safe and sane.
The runs have happened no matter what the weather has been like since they started in earnest in the 80s, with only one being called off at the last minute due to flooding in 1990. Originally it was a short ten to fifteen minute race through the campus early in the afternoon. Today the runs starts at nightfall and last much longer, taking over an hour for everyone to make the run and other related events going on all evening following it. Amazing how things change.
Nearly every student on campus looks forward to the run these days, and the party atmosphere that comes with it, either as a participant or a spectator. The one serious tone of the race, being one of protest and anger, has long since been overshadowed by the all too true nature of it as tradition of fun and excitement for all those involved. The run is now all about fun and excitement, celebrating life as a student and the freedom that comes with it.
I think these pictures speak for themselves as to how the students feel about the Run today. Even in the coldest days of the winter they get out there, bare it all, and run through the streets in front of everyone. Just look at the face on this girl in the final frame here. Does this look like someone seriously conducting a protest? I think not.
So enjoy the Run and all that comes with it each year, for I am certain you will see many more coming down the road.
Last modified on 2013/9/8 by Admin