A run-through the history of the Hudson Relays


Courtesy of Lee Davis/CWRU

The CWRU Class of 1974 celebrates their victory at the 1972 Hudson Relays.

Cameron Ward, Staff Writer

The Hudson Relay is Case Western Reserve University’s oldest campus tradition, a mark in history that makes it a favorite among many in the CWRU community. For those currently on campus, the 26-mile long relay race marks the coming of spring and the ending of the semester. Recently it has acted as the highlight of CWRU’s Legacy Week. But where did this tradition get its start? Most of us know the spiel, learned from our first campus tours: The Hudson Relay commemorates Western Reserve University’s 26-mile move from Hudson, Ohio to where the federated university sits today. 

Visiting the old campus location started as a tradition way back in 1882 when Reserve first moved. This was usually upheld by the Reserve senior class, but in 1910 third-year Monroe Curtis launched the idea of supplementing the tradition with a relay race, to “fill in the hitherto blank observance of the Undergraduate Day of Commencement Week.” Thus, the Hudson Relays were born. The teams were to be made of at least 24 people per class, with each runner completing one mile in their section, and the class president completing the last leg. Following months of logistical planning, the race day finally came in June 1910, despite muddy dirt roads acting as the route. The Class of 1912 was the first official winner of this race, with their time being just over 2 hours. The Class of 1910 unfortunately had two runners get lost on the way and hopped on a car to make up for it, disqualifying them. In this same spirit, many classes in the following years have gotten disqualified for hitching a car ride instead of running. It was said in 1914 that using a machine to transport runners “detracts from the dignity of the school,” a statement which stopped few from doing so anyway. 

Courtesy of Phil Ritzenberg/Adelbert

Following this exciting start, the rules of the race evolved as with the times. Originally, only students of the Adelbert College of Reserve participated, but this was eventually expanded to include all schools of Western Reserve University, and later Case Institute of Technology in 1978, following the federation of the two universities. When the women of Mather College were allowed to compete in 1972, their laps were only 0.5 miles, but this changed when classes started competing as a whole in 1975. The race has been run nearly every year, with some skips here and there, such as during World War II and COVID’s virtual race in 2020. In 1946, following World War II, all teams were disqualified for riding in a car. The race has also rotated in its timing and placement of campus festivities, being involved in Undergraduate Days, May Days, Greek Week and now Legacy Week, to name a few. After years of stagnancy and missed races, the tradition was revamped in 1972. Prizes other than getting the class number engraved on the Hudson Relay Rock were added, including t-shirts, the Curtis Cup and a grand steak dinner on the university president’s dime for classes who win four years in a row. The champagne was added to the steak dinner in 1979. The Class of 1982 was the first class to win this coveted prize, with the Class of 2017 winning it most recently.

In 1990, due to road conditions, traffic laws, and disgruntled citizens, the university was forced to confine the race to University Circle. The modern race consists of 5 laps around the university of 0.5 miles per leg, with 6 groups, including alumni and graduate students. In 2004, the 26 miles was shortened to 24.5 miles so the route could run through North Residential Village for student’s viewing pleasure (to the chagrin of avid runners). And that brings us to where we are today!

This year, the Hudson Relays are happening on April 29 at 10 a.m. If you want to engage with this exciting history, sign ups are currently happening through the Class Officer Collective (COC). Even if running is not your thing, you can sign up to be an event volunteer as well or go to the watch party at the Jolly Scholar. All runners or volunteers will receive Hudson Relays merchandise and meals throughout the day. If you have more questions about the event or its history, reach out to COC or the office of Student Activities and Leadership.