Students run alternative Naked Mile day earlier than expected

BY DONN M. FRESARD AND ANDREW MCCORMACK
Daily Staff Reporters
Published April 20, 2004

Seeking to keep an 18-year-old tradition alive, a group of
University students and alumni participated in an alternative Naked
Mile run at 11:00 last night.

They evaded a police campaign against the run by scheduling it
one night early and altering the route.

All Naked Mile participants reached for comment requested that
their last names not be printed.

About four years ago, the University began a campaign with the
Ann Arbor Police Department to end the Naked Mile due to concerns
about student safety. During the 1990s, the event had grown into a
media spectacle with the run eventually being broadcast on the
Internet.

But the runners didn’t have to worry about gropers or
cameras last night. Susan, who said she rode a bicycle while
clothed to scout the course and relayed information with the
runners via cellular phone, described the event as a success.

“The only problem we encountered was at the corner of
State Street and Washington (Street), where a cop car pulled up,
but nobody was stopped,” she said. “We all sprinted
away at that point.”

The group was reportedly comprised of 13 naked runners, two
clothed bicyclists and one naked bicyclist. Three members of the
group were recent University graduates, while the rest were
students.

Runners said they took extra precautions against police
intervention by setting up safe houses and plans to scatter if they
saw a patrol.

Justifications for the run varied among the participants, with
some citing personal and political expression as their
objective.

“I think the Naked Mile has been deteriorating, and these
grassroots efforts are the only way to bring it back,” said
Adrien, a University alum who participated in the run.

Danielle, an LSA senior, said she felt the participants acted in
the true spirit of the Naked Mile.

“We ran with the heart of it, with no freaky men with
cameras,” she said. “I’m not an
exhibitionist.”

Some runners expressed defiance toward the Department of Public
Safety and the AAPD for what they perceived as a crackdown on the
Naked Mile.

“There isn’t a single person who ran here tonight
that wasn’t angry at the police,” Adrien said, adding
that the runners’ outrage was caused by what they felt was a
draconian suppression of the Naked Mile. “I hope people will
be inspired to do similar acts in the next 48 hours.”

Danielle expressed similar concerns with the social implications
of the DPS and AAPD’s crackdown on public nudity.

“It’s a superficial expression, but a true one, that
I can own my body,” she said.

Not all of the runners, however, described their motivations as
political. Some said it was “nice” to end their time at
college with friends.

“We got to smack our asses at Starbucks;” Danielle
said. “What could be better?”

DPS spokeswoman Diane Brown said she had not heard that a naked
run would be taking place tonight, and that DPS had scheduled
patrols for tomorrow night in anticipation of nude runners.

While running naked in public is a crime with a $500 dollar fine
and punishable for up to one year in prison, Brown said the
University’s concern with the Naked Mile is the danger
students expose themselves to if they are brave enough to run in
the event.

Brown said in the past the event has often been a hotbed for
illegal activities. “It’s a mixture of drunken people,
illegal behavior, too many people, and too many people with ill
intentions converging.”

Many times the behavior results in runners being trampled or
creating traffic accidents, Brown said.

Brown also added, “We have dangers of sexual assault. We
had a report one year of a person in the crowd hitting naked people
with a bullwhip.”

In recent years, the University has also expressed worries on
how many runners in the Naked Mile are videotaped, DPS Director
Bill Bess said.

“When there are a number of persons watching the event,
these spectators are frequently taking digital photos, which may
end up on the Internet or TV. We have no control over that,”
he said.