Public Nudity Pages

The Naked Mile

Once a year on April 1st, students and older people who should know better gather for the annual Ann Arbor Naked Mile.

The Naked Mile website calls it a "sacred tradition" that has been held late at night every year since 1985. The run is a celebration signifying the end of classes at South University. The run was originally started by a small group of students, and as usual it was linked to lots of alcohol and a bet. It was originally called the "nude mile".

In it's heyday the Naked Mile attracted thousands of eager nude runners. News stories from 1996 and 1997 reported that the event was very popular, and attracted up to 10,000 spectators. "There's not much we can do about this; we just don't want people hit by cars," said a local police officer.

By 1998, however, police and university authorities had become concerned about the Naked Mile. Women in particular were discouraged from running when it became apparent that people were filming the run and posting the videos on the internet. There were also concerns about safety, both in terms of sexual assault and traffic.

Running naked in the streets is illegal in Ann Arbor and does attract a fine.

In 1999 University President Lee Bollinger said the university did not condone the run and issued an official letter to students along those lines. That year only 500 students ran, but the papers reported that 20,000 spectators watched. A man was arrested for masturbating in public, but no-one was hauled in for being nude. Many worked hard to put their own individuality into the run, some wearing hula skirts, others riding unicycles.

In 2000 the police said they would arrest people for nudity, and this resulted in a much smaller turnout.

In 2001 only 24 students did the run, with 16 arrests, and the students held protests at their treatment by authorities. "They're not our parents," said student Michael Simon. "I'm disappointed the police are putting their sense of morality on the student body." Police, however, were pleased. "Our efforts to put an end to this were even more successful than we had hoped," said Sgt. Mike Logghe, Ann Arbor Police Department spokesman.

2002 saw even less runners, with some opting to wear underwear in an effort to placate police. By then it was being declared a "dead tradition". In 2003 there were only seven runners and all were arrested.

The Naked Mile started out as an undergraduate prank, and turned into a media circus. Now it's looking to become an issue of youth versus authority, as various student bodies consider ways to protest the crushing of a relatively harmless "tradition".

Interestingly, the Naked Mile website is now selling videos of the event - something originally used as an excuse to stop it. What will 2004 bring.

- Article written 9 December 2003

Related Sites

Goodspeed Blog Links - a list of relevant news articles about the naked mile

Naked Mile Media - the official site's listing of news items


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