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An Account of and Homage to the Bowles Hall Running Club

Once students enroll at Cal, it seems that most ditch the annual New Year's resolutions and opt instead for overly ambitious semester goals. When I returned to campus for my sophomore year, I was among them. But my semester’s resolution that fall 2018 sounded ludicrous even to my ears. That season, I told myself, I would complete the Berkeley Half Marathon.

Bowles being Bowles, it shouldn’t have surprised me in the least to find that other non-runners had the same mad idea. In fact, crazed Haas-Rhetoric major Nick had beat me to it and already set up the Bowles Hall Running Club, created a regimented training schedule, and recruited everyone under the sun, including our former dean.

On Day One, I twisted my ankle. Before the run even started. While stretching. I spent the next few days hobbling around, nursing a swollen, softball-sized appendage, and refusing in my embarrassment and laziness to get it checked out at Tang. But the ankle soon healed, and I was back at it at once.

In order to accommodate everyone’s schedules, the Running Club that semester met at 7:30 a.m. Sometimes we’d catch the sunrise. Three days a week, we’d all gather at the foot of Bowles’ big stairs and, bleary-eyed, wait for all to congregate. Julia would reliably be solving a Sudoku to exercise the mind before she did the same to her body. In-house triathlete Jack would show off his quads from underneath short shorts as Maeve and I yawned and shivered. Katie—fast asleep—likely wouldn’t show up until the very end.

Given our varying levels of ability, the Running Club would make its way to the Clark Kerr Track for its training. That way we could run at different speeds, leaving no one behind. At some point, Nick found out that if we ran 6 laps we’d complete three miles. Almost certainly untrue, we’d generally shoot for that anyway. Wind or shine — as these post-rain selfies can attest to.

While the track remained our go-to stretch, the Fire Trails, Indian Rock and South Side neighborhoods soon became regular destinations for the club. Winding our way through the Friday afternoon crowds in Elmwood, we’d down water and free samples at the College Avenue Trader Joe’s before buying up snacks and a cup of Philz for the bus ride back to campus.

Even when we are not together, Running Club lives on. Whether that means sharing our feats from study abroad trips to Sweden or from bundled-up runs in treacherous Vermont winters, the Bowles Hall runners stay on it. During COVID-19 times, we logged our runs online to keep track of the conquered miles as a group.

Did I ever run that half marathon? Yes, actually! But not when I expected to. Just a month before the 2018 Berkeley Half Marathon (which the organizers later canceled due to wildfires), I fractured my elbow. Incidentally, it happened while running. I went out alone one morning and, distracted by music or a podcast, tripped over my feet. The tears came when I saw that I had smashed... my phone. Only later did I realize that my arm wasn’t quite alright. The lesson I learned that day was always to run with company, not technology, whenever possible.

One year later in November 2019, Scott, Julia, Caroline, and I finally completed the Berkeley Biofreeze Half Marathon. Scott and I took it easy, while Julia sped ahead and pulled off a respectable time. Caroline outdid us all and finished so early she didn’t even stick around for the triumphant picture at the end.

- Sophia B.


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