McCabe Mile Still Going Strong After 46 Years

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Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Though many at Swarthmore seem to have forgotten its existence the last few years, the McCabe Mile will reach its 47th anniversary this coming spring. The event is once again being hosted by the cross-country team, and they have no doubt they will be ready.

“It will definitely be happening again this year,” team member John Gagnon ‘17 said. The event is slated once again for the Thursday night of Swatstruck, and shows no signs of fading any time soon.

The tradition is rather simple. Every year, runners from Swarthmore’s cross country team gather in the basement of McCabe Library for a race founded before they were born. As an assortment of prospective and current students look on, competitors in the race squeeze past the tight corridors of McCabe for a total of 18 laps, or one mile. Even those buried in their books join the fun and cheer for their fellow students. The winners, one male and one female, receive the crowning jewels: a roll of Scott toilet paper for each of them.

Since a cold winter night in 1970, the McCabe Mile has been a time-honored tradition here at Swarthmore. Started by Dave Johnson ‘73 and Peter Gould ‘73, the race has brought together those looking for the challenge of a lifetime and those simply looking for a good time.

“Some people take it really seriously, and others have fun dressing up and what not,” Indiana Reid-Shaw ‘17 said. Reid-Shaw even cited one of the sillier aspects of the race. “Traditionally, the organizer reads a quote from a book we find in McCabe and whoever guesses the title gets a […] head start in the race,” she said.

While the race is organized by the cross country team, the event is open to anyone daring enough to brave McCabe’s 90-degree turns. Turnout for the race has been about the same for the past several years, as Gagnon noted.

“The past few years there have probably been about 15-ish people that have run,” he said.

However, while the race is still viewed by a number of onlookers, Reid-Shaw indicated the event used to be a packed house. “In the decades [earlier], I think the McCabe Mile garnered more of a crowd. […] There are pictures of people cheering on top of and within the bookshelves,” she said.

For the participants, however, the race can be exhilarating even without a plethora of supporters. As both a participant and an organizer of the event, Reid-Shaw, while recognizing the slightly comical nature of the McCabe Mile, had nothing but praise for the event.

“As a track runner, it feels ridiculous to be running in such tight circles for a mile, but as a student it feels great to run through a library,” she said. The team hopes the event will be draw for students and prospects for years to come.

“It’s one of the Swat traditions I hope keeps going for a long time,” Reid-Shaw said.

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Siddharth Srivatsan

Sid is a sophomore from Ashburn, Virginia (NoVA!) planning on double majoring in Mathematics and Economics. He enjoys backpacking, and DJ’s a radio show on WSRN-FM. You can probably catch him watching Law & Order or reading The Economist.


  1. And what about the 4xDonut and the 4X BEvERage? The other two events of the “Triple Crown”? Are they still going strong too?

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