UC Berkeley’s libraries are generally quiet places of refuge for studying during dead week. On Thursday night, however, this silence was broken as students gathered for the semesterly Naked Run.
Between 8:30 and 9 p.m., runners and watchers alike congregated at the spiral staircase of Main Stacks library. Around 200 onlookers clung to every inch of railing in anticipation for the run to start. Eyes were glued to the participants, who gathered at the center of the room, some stripping one item of clothing at a time and others painting blue and yellow on their faces and bodies.
“I’m watching it because I’m a new transfer student, and it’s quite a fresh experience,” said Jimmy Zhang, a campus junior. “I’ve watched it before online on YouTube. But it will never be such an experience to be in person and to experience it.”
Other campus newcomers shared similar sentiments.
Benito Camelas, a third year exchange student, said he chose to participate in the run because he wanted to do something memorable during the short time he has at Cal.
“It’s my only year here … I think it’s a fun idea to do it,” Camelas said. “You’ve got to challenge yourself and do something that makes you uncomfortable — and that’s why I’m here.”
Runners began exactly at 9 p.m., dashing across the Main Stacks library and up and down the spiral staircase before finishing at approximately 9:20 p.m. Runners and spectators chanted a resounding “Go Bears!” four times at the run’s closing. At the end of the run, some runners met up with friends who had been spectating to reclaim clothes they had left behind, changing in common areas and in between bookstacks.
Yecenia Peruz, a campus senior, was studying near the spiral staircase during the Naked Run. She said she had heard speculation that the run was no longer happening due to the ongoing strike. As half-nude people began to gather near her table, Peruz said she realized this was clearly not the case.
Spectators said the Naked Run pays homage to campus’ history of nude activism. Amanda Chan, a campus junior spectating the run, noted that the event emphasizes Berkeley’s commitment to “freedom of expression” through means other than speech.
Some streakers expressed support for the UC academic workers strike, shouting phrases such as “Support the strike!” which elicited cheers. However, most yelled chaotically as onlookers shouted obscenities.
“I think it’s nice. I know some people find it gross,” said Main Stacks student employee Joaquin Najera, who previously worked for The Daily Californian. “I know that UCLA has like the ‘undie run’ or whatever. I think that’s kind of lame, though. Like, I feel like you should full send it.”
Some library staff said that they were warned that the run would be crowded and loud and that there would be body odor, noting that the door had to be barricaded for last year’s run. Despite this, many expressed support for the Naked Run as a longstanding campus tradition.
For some, the streak of tradition seemed different this year. Many Naked Run participants this year braved the run in their underwear as opposed to running fully nude. Runners, spectators and library staff alike noted that there seemed to be fewer participants than usual, though spectators were aplenty.
“Berkeley’s where a lot of the movements began. This is a place that’s supposed to shock,” said campus junior Tatiana Fakoukaki. “I don’t think Berkeley is ever going to be shy about anything. You either go 100% or you just go home.”