This is The Flame.
On the Centre Traditions Page on the school’s website, the description of this glorious statue is as follows:
“Almost 40 years ago, a striking sculpture called ‘The Flame’ was installed at the center of campus. Soon after, students began a tradition of running from their dorm to The Flame and back—naked!
‘The Flame Run’ has become such a part of campus lore that it now lends its name to an alumni e-newsletter. Public nudity is against student conduct regulations, so prospective Flame Runners must choose their time well and run really fast—or be prepared to pay the fine.”
Let’s give you the real story. There is a statue called The Flame. Students run from all over campus. We sing songs of the legends of Flame Runners who once ran it from the coffee shop a mile away.
(THAT is hardcore, people. You think your lip ring makes you hardcore? I would love to see you AND your lip ring run 2 miles. Naked. In January. Yea, that’s what I thought.)
Yes, yes, it’s against the rules, blah, blah, blah. But for glory? What cost is too much?
Why am I writing about this? Yesterday’s Vice Presidential Debate was held at Centre College, my alma mater and the home of this magnificent tradition of rampant nekkedness and artistic expression. (Artistic expression = running the flame in nothing but cowboy boots and a Batman mask.) I was tempted to write about this yesterday, but I didn’t want our nekkedness in all its glory to overshadow the debate. (Kidding.) I was interested, though, to hear rumors that something like 60
brave ballsy people idiots ran
The Flame yesterday.
Why are they idiots? Let me paint you a picture. The Secret Service was EVERYWHERE yesterday, many of them up in trees. I can only imagine that this became a crazy fun game they played to dick with the student body. (They had been up in a tree for 14 hours. That has to be terribly uncomfortable and one can only play Angry Birds for so long. And then your battery dies.) I wonder if they let 6 or 7 little nekked gazelles go unharassed, to return to the herd and send up the “all clear” before they dropped ruthless and Uzi-weilding out of the trees to detain the poor, nekked eighth gazelle for a weapons search. Then again, if you’re bare as a jaybird, where would you hide a weapon? Oh right.
Today on Nested, I felt it was appropriate to open up to some of my fellow Centre folks. I took to Facebook and received a lot of feedback, including an agreement to be interviewed. My anonymous guest today, kittens, is known as Gallty to her friends. Okay, okay, if you went to Centre, she’s not terribly anonymous. But if you didn’t, then you may go your whole lives without the pleasure that is knowing her. Your loss, my friends, your loss indeed.
So, without further rambling, I give you:
The First Interview Nested Has Ever Done About THE BEST Topic and Most Glorious Pastime Ever in the World
ME: Describe the most epic flame run you have ever witnessed.
GALLTY: Oh, easily the 6-7 people who ran during Milton's speech on the 40th anniversary party. No questions asked. The fact that Bill motha-fuckin B***** (protecting the innocent and all) was inches away from Centre College's most brightly lit dongs will go down in history as not only my favorite Flame Run, but also one of my favorite moments from senior year. And props to the one girl who was brave enough to do it - I know who you are, but your lady parts are safe with me.
ME: Describe your own, personal, best flame run.
GALLTY: Sorry, I gotta give this two. One for timing/length/aftermath and one for sheer number of people I ran in front of. Oh, maybe three. Yes, three.
1) My very first run ever was freshman year Centre Term. Yes, I know, I don't know what took me so long either, or why on earth I thought running in the dead of winter was the perfect time to lose my flame-inity. Nevertheless, that's what it happened. We got the brilliant idea to store our clothes in the doorway of Olin, because, you know, science. Really, I think it had more to do with the fact that we wanted to re-clothe in warmth. Too bad...the shoe that was keeping the door propped open, fell out whilst we were running. Thankfully, one person had the forethought to bring his ID card - so I hid in the bushes while he ran around back to let us back in. Whoops.
2) Summer Orientation used to be a magical time for the OAs. We totally didn't drink (we did) or get into the tunnels between Hillsides A and B (we did), and we definitely didn't run the Flame from Yerkes (we did). We also didn't climb up Old Cowan, and leave two pairs of underwear and two boxers as proof (we did). And someone's boxers definitely weren't waving like a flag from the spire for 6 months after (they were).
3) My final, and proudest flame run, was the last night I was at Centre (and yes, I just teared up thinking about it. What? No one who knows me is surprised). We ran from the beetle, as that was one of the only totems I had not been naked around yet. On the way back, a larger group of other humans had approached. And formed a tunnel for us to run through. So many high fives ensued. That's the great thing about Centre - your nakedness is not judged. It is expected and celebrated.
ME: Have you ever witnessed an epic flame run fail?
GALLTY: I have not. Every Flame Run I've witnessed was completed. Unless you think running around naked in front of Susie Roush is a fail. Then all the 40th birthday runners are failers (winners).
ME: What do you think is the importance of running the flame as a CC tradition?
GALLTY: Honestly? It's the ultimate embrace of our love for each other. I ran with people who are great friends, but I also ran with people who weren't. And not once did I feel awkward running with almost-strangers. The general rules of decorum, but also judgement, are lifted during a Flame Run. We just love each other, and that freaking statue, and our college. And running naked through campus is the best way to embody that.
ME: Nekked or nude? Your thoughts?
GALLTY: Naked. The Queen’s English is good enough for me haha. (But Tommy Pickles did used to say "nakie" so I'll accept that.)
ME: Should we add Lincoln to the route? What would we call that run? (Note: The college recently installed a 10-foot-tall statue of Abraham Lincoln not 50 feet from the Flame. Needless to say, I’m intrigued.)
GALLTY: Ugh. The "You Don't Even Go Here" route. I definitely think it should be added. Pretty well sums up my feelings on why that statue is there in the first place - just another reason for the kiddos to be naked. I'll allow it.
ME: Are you ever too old or too "alumnified" to run the flame?
GALLTY: Absolutely not.
ME: Is it cheating if you wear accessories, such as a jaunty toboggan cap?
GALLTY: The only real rules is that your nakey-bits are out. Hats are acceptable. Underwear is not. Swipe cards are also ok, as are shoes.
ME: How did the presence of the flame and its worshipers impact your CC experience? Or did it not affect you at all?
GALLTY: Made it better. (I think my answer about why it's a tradition well sums this up.)
ME: Anything else you'd like to add?
GALLTY: I fucking love the Flame. I wish Joey B had run it.
And there you have it, dear readers. For texture, I’m going to follow this post, as I follow many of my posts, with a list. Here is what other people had to say about the Grande Olde Tradition. (We like to spell things the olde way at Centre. It’s our favourite. And our favourite colour is grey and our favourite shoppes sell fine trappings indeed. Okay. We don’t, really. Just me. And the entire English Department. Ain’t no thang.)
1. William: Better do it at least once before you graduate! During winter! #win AND Friendly mention that I took our tradition up the east coast during Summer 07.
2. Ellie: lost my cell phone and found it the next day in a bush in front of breck...aka i was running from dps and naturally my underwear was the more important belonging to snatch up (Note: Breck is a dorm. DPS=Department of Public Safety.)
3. Rhiannon: One time during senior week I was walking around when someone stopped me and told me to hold on their clothes as they proceeded to strip in front me. I think it was Flame related...
4. Rachel: I once saw a "hall program" of flame runners run in front of Old Centre from North Side. Their silhouettes were very clear, and it was so sad when I realized that the main group had already gotten to the flame, turned around, and gotten back to the slowest runner who was still in front of Old Centre. The poor guy admitted defeat since he had been lapped and turned around to run back to the dorm with the rest.
5. Sunil: I don't recall this well, so you may have to get the actual story from someone who wasn't in my state... But evidently I led (or soloed, I don't know) a rather large run on the night before graduation.
6. Mary: Claiborne and I ran it together at the end of freshman year - she being a two-sport athlete, was in much better shape than I and dragged me into a bush & the side of Olin when we retrieved our clothes. Still have a scar on my upper thigh
7. Molly: Benjamin's (her hubby) first run is my favorite. Junior year. I was his scout, and the coast was clear. Karen was walking down Breck's hallway as he was strolling down it in his towel, and her face was priceless. So Benjamin started his run, and at that exact second, a movie in the library let out and about 50 people came walking out toward the dorms...towards the now nude and sprinting Benjamin. I don't know who yelled first (maybe Farley), but they all cheered him on as he made his lap around the Flame. It was pretty darn amazing
And last and certainly least, I feel that I should offer my experiences. I ran it for the first time my senior year. I caught the adrenaline so much that I proceeded to run it at least 15 more times that night. Carter was ashamed. Probably still is. But Gallty is right when she talked about a suspension of decorum.
When flame running, it is as if you don’t have wobbly bits or that birthmark on your left ass-cheek that’s shaped like a water buffalo. You are sleek and new, one with the world and its peoples! (It’s just that glorious, friends. Promise.)
Hey, at least I didn't fail. Unlike the poor kid who ran it on the first day of class during a class change, tripped, slid for a few inches, and then just put his head down until everyone was gone. I hope they were able to clean him up. That would have been one hell of a strawberry.
But I leave you with this image and challenge for your weekends: Embrace your weekend like the giant metal hunk of inspiration we all know it is. (Just go with it.) Run to it with naked, free abandon and circle it gleefully, laughing and feeling the crisp October breeze on your bits! And when Sunday night rolls around, ignore the fact that Monday is looming and instead focus on your next glorious weekend, your next glorious pants-off-dance-off with the world. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.
Happy Friday, y'all!