Running the Race That Remembers One of BC’s Greatest

As everyone knows, Boston College is a big school of tradition: we have the convocation to graduation traditions on Linden Lane (although both the Class of 2019 and Class of 2022 never had their convocations and I’m not over it), Mass of the Holy Spirit, Showdown, the Mods (do those count?), and so many more that I’m probably just blanking on at the moment. I’m also the daughter of an ’87 Eagle and the sister of a ’16 and a ’22. You could definitely make the argument that we’re a school big on family tradition, too.

On panels for the Student Admission Program (SAP), four SAP members get about 30 minutes to tell high school juniors and seniors (along with their parents) about BC, and why it’s been the best place for them, well worth the investment.

When the crowd gets quiet, one of the first stock questions from the admissions counselor is: “So, why don’t we ask the students what their favorite traditions at BC are?”

I’ve come up with a variety of answers over the years—Marathon Monday gets rather repetitive—and one of my absolute favorite traditions (not just one to please the audience) is arguably the BC highlight for October: the Welles Remy Crowther Red Bandanna 5K Run. We get the red bandanna football game to follow, also, with everyone in their own bandannas cheering on BC as they play some far superior team that we may occasionally have a chance to upset (USC, anyone?). But the run is something extremely special that can sometimes become overshadowed by the big Friday night game. The run provides an opportunity to reflect a little more on the meaning of the red bandanna as opposed to its use as just a fun tailgate accessory, though the crowd does always look incredible. Different student groups on campus, friends, families, high schoolers—all walks of life amounting to around 2000 people total—find tradition and meaning in this red bandanna run.

This is my fourth year as a runner, and each year, I watch the Crowther parents get up to speak to the large body of students running, graciously thanking the groups that make the event possible and demonstrating sincere gratitude for this annual event. Though they’ve spoken in countless places over the past 15 years since they discovered the red bandanna story, they still provide new inspiration in just a few brief minutes before the run. Their words give me chills each time. The story of their son Welles, consistently told and retold not just at BC but in books, documentaries, and on ESPN, is inspiring each and every time I hear it. Around the time of Sept. 11, 2001, Welles had told his dad he was quitting his finance job to become a New York firefighter, planning to use the skills that saved the lives of so many people on that day. He was, by definition, a man for others throughout his entire life, and gave his life doing exactly that. To me, Welles is the exact embodiment of the ideal BC student.

Each year, so many members of the BC community stand in the quad wearing their red bandannas and t-shirts listening so intently to the Crowther family. It’s early for a Saturday, no doubt, but it’s well worth it. My personal favorite image of the run is of Linden Lane, right before the race starts, filled all the way to Gasson with a sea of runners who are almost all wearing their own red bandannas. The red bandanna has truly become a symbol of BC, but this is when it is especially prominent. It’s students, families, and staff alike: serious runners and those who will stop after the first or second mile (probably me). Though the Crowthers’ speech and the memories are serious and sobering, the run itself becomes all smiles as you run down a shut-down Commonwealth Ave. (downhill first, starting off easy) and club lacrosse members cheer you on through the three miles around the res and up the hill to Co-Ro.

The whole thing is quite short and not much of an event when you look at it from afar, but the meaning and reminder of how selfless of a human being Welles Crowther was at a mere age of 24 is what gives this run significance. It’s a humbling reminder of where we are in our lives and enables us to take a step back from the trivial things that stress us out so that we can take a look at the bigger picture. Especially in my senior year, those moments are proving to be more important (and more emotional).

And sure, you may not be a “runner,” you may not consider yourself capable of waking up before 9 a.m. unless you have a non-lecture class on a Tuesday, but this event is one that is well worth it. It’s something that I know I will remember as one of the best traditions of my four years here, but if you missed it this time around, just make sure you’re sporting that red bandanna Friday night.

Featured Graphic by Nicole Chan / Graphics Editor