The Slow Race

Street Theatre Brigade hits the ground running. Really slowly.

Slow racers.
Slow racers.

A little after 5 p.m. on Friday evening, a motley crew of athletes sauntered to the duck pond on UNM campus. Dressed in short shorts, spandex and a clown’s assortment of sunglasses, sweatbands and legwarmers, they stretched and warmed up. Some ran sprints. Some did lunges while smoking cigarettes. Amid rally cries and a flurry of high-fives, the group’s apparent leader assembled them along a starting line. A lone cheerleader, in full regalia, shouted “Ready! Set!,” and then blew long on a whistle. And nothing happened. Or so it may have appeared at first. Several onlookers began to murmur. Someone called out “It’s a slow race!” At an almost imperceptible pace, knees rose high, feet pounded pavement, mouths opened, fists stretched toward the finish. The guy in 70’s headband and shiny red shorts took the lead. Then the woman in the yellow hot pants and fluorescent orange legwarmers pulled ahead. Fifteen runners, moving like molasses, fought forward. People in the crowd shouted out to their favorites, calling them by their absurd and distinctive clothing. “C’mon orange mesh guy! You can do it!” Then everything began to unravel. First the red shorts guy went down, arms akimbo, hitting hard and rolling. It was a five minute fall. One and two at a time, other racers followed suite, tripping over those already on the ground and sabotaging each other with elbows to the face: all in slow motion. As bodies rolled over dreamily and piled up, one lone runner crossed the finish line and began to clap in slow-mo. The downed runners started clapping too. The clapping picked up speed until it reached a regular tempo and everyone was standing, brushing each other off and high-fiving again. The crowd watching clapped as well, clearly amused, and the crew jogged off. Two more races were held Friday, one on Johnson Field and the other at the intersection of Central and Cornell. People exercising in Johnson Gym were treated to a slow race through the windows in front of their treadmills. People walking by and even many people in moving cars stopped to watch. After the races, several of the runners handed out small cards or placed them casually on benches nearby. The cards read Street Theatre Brigade. Keep a sharp eye out for them. You may be seeing them and not even know it.