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A toast to tradition: Reminiscing on past Relays

Photo courtesy of Tug McTighe

After I graduated in 1992, I hit up many a Relays. You know, to drink once again from the well of memory that only your time in college can fill. To try and live–if just for a couple days–like I was 20 again.

But, of course, I wasn’t 20. I think I was 26 or so at my last Relays. I can’t be sure, there isn’t any evidence–Thankfully, due to the glorious lack of available digital photography and woefully archaic phone technology, very few photos of those days still exist.

You know what happened: I was growing older and my life was changing. First real job. Advertising copywriter at a Kansas City agency. Thanks Lou Wolter and Bary Foskit! Getting serious with my then girlfriend, now wife Sarah. Things were getting real.

So, I quit going to Relays.

But I have never forgotten those amazing five or nine or 10 days of the Drake Relays. Rumor has it there was a track meet, a pretty serious one, too. But I’m not sure. I never once stepped foot into Drake Stadium during my four years of Relays. I walked by it from Greek Street to Peggy’s to the West End many times. I heard the cheers and saw the hubbub, but never ventured inside. I know, I know – it’s a huge deal. For Drake and for Des Moines. I should have done better.

That being said, I had people come to visit for Relays ALL the time. In fact, a friend of my roommate’s, Tommy, came down every year of the four we were there.

I don’t know what I am trying to say. Maybe it’s that time is fleeting and since real life always gets in the way – quickly, I might add – you need to savor each and every moment of the Drake Relays. Maybe Relays lets you relive a bit of your past.

But of course, it doesn’t. Nothing does.

Because there is no way to properly recapture the Saturday night of Relays during my sophomore year when my roommate Rob, his aforementioned buddy Tommy, their other buddy Laurence and my pledge son Jay (we were Theta Chis by the way) walked back from the house to Goodwin-Kirk #3113 at about 5:00am after an amazing day at Relays.

We got to the room, sat down and looked out the window. Sometime later, the sun came up.

Relays for us were officially over. Again: it’s all fleeting my friends.

But Drake is more to me than Relays. Much more. To this day, Rob is one of my best friends. And I mean best. We were at each other’s weddings, we talk every week, we see each other whenever we can. Look, it runs much deeper than that, but that’s for another day.

In the end, Drake gave me a lot of things: I played soccer there, I got a fantastic education there, I made a lifetime friend there.

I think I’ll text him. Maybe we can make it next year.

Tug McTighe (BA Journalism, 1992)


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