Hundreds of Yale students — many clad in nothing but underwear and body-paint — gathered on Old Campus late Wednesday night to participate in Habitat for Humanity’s annual Midnight Mile run.
As ’80s favorites like “Eye of the Tiger” and “Thriller” blasted from a Durfee window, the crowd multiplied as people prepared to raise money for a good cause and burn some calories in the process. While cooler temperatures caused some prospective runners to stay in, reducing the overall fundraising amount relative to previous years, those involved with the race considered it to be a worthwhile endeavor.
“I think [the mile] is an excellent way to familiarize students with Habitat for Humanity,” said Greg Lipstein ’08, who volunteered at the event. “It’s an easy way for them to help the Habitat cause.”
Shortly before the race began, a rowdy group of nearly naked Saybrugians stormed the Lanman-Wright courtyard to gather Saybrook freshmen and prepare for the famous “Saybrook Strip.” After congregating in a freshman counselor’s room and reciting the traditional Saybrook Strip chant, the group paraded outside behind the college’s flag and continued to cheer and sing from the starting line.
After an energetic countdown, the runners took off. The route led them out the High Street Gate, down Elm Street to York, through the Morse-Stiles corridor to Tower Parkway, and then back along York, Wall and College streets to the finish line in front of Sterling library. Calhoun runners — led by Midnight Mile veteran Mike Schwab ’06 — dominated the winner’s circle by coming in first, second, and third.
“I loved the race the past few years, and I really thought I could win it this year,” Schwab said. “It was all about winning it for Calhoun.”
While the first few runners finished the race in under six minutes, the atmosphere was far from cutthroat. Race participants said the event was definitely more of a party than a cross-country race.
“Some people may keep track of who gets in first, but it’s not competitive at all,” said Kristin Anderson ’05, the fund-raising coordinator for Habitat.
According to a history of the mile, written by race co-founder Chris Edwards ’01, the popular event began with a single runner. The roots of the tradition reach back to 1997, when a group of students, standing outside Lawrance Hall at 2:30 a.m., observed a lone runner making laps around Old Campus.
After a while, two of the students joined the runner for a lap, and were so “invigorated and exhausted” by the run that they were inspired to share their experience with the rest of Yale. Wanting to raise money for a good cause in the process, they donated proceeds from the run to Habitat for Humanity. The club has since taken over the event, which has attracted hundreds of new students every year.
The $660 raised in this year’s midnight mile will go toward Habitat’s new project, which involves building three handicapped-accessible homes this year in the Eaton Row development. The organization’s new fund-raising committee hopes to raise $5,000 that would pay for handicap features in the homes such as handrails, ramps and accessible toilets.