The Hidden Athletes Among Us

With official sports cancelled, the Northeastern Reddit community creates their own – campus speedruns

By Christian Gomez

Northeastern’s humble Boston campus has a tradition of being home to some of the best athletes in the world. Who could forget those like Adam Gaudette, a Hobey Baker Award winner and hattrick hero in the 2018 Beanpot finals, or Alina Müller, who won a bronze medal at the age of 15 with the Swiss National Ice Hockey Team at the 2014 Olympics in Russia?

When the COVID-19 pandemic tragically stopped all varsity sports from proceeding, the stage was set for an entirely new breed of athletes to take their place. Of course, we’re talking about the Northeastern Speedrunners.

From the Northeastern subreddit, these action-hungry competitors rose to fame seemingly overnight after one redditor, who goes by the name of neuspeedruns, posted a homemade video of a three minute and nine second sprint from the West Village dorms to our classic campus grocer, Wollaston’s, and back. An instant hit with Northeastern’s subreddit, the video reached a record number of upvotes, and would bring together a community of hidden athletes from all corners of campus.

But first, these silent sprinters needed something to fight for. While the varsity athletes focused on winning the Beanpot or reaching the NCAA March Madness Tournament, these campus heroes would set their sights on something else, something bigger – the official NEU Speed Runs leaderboards. 

Inspired by the original speedrun and with big ideas for the future of the speedrunning community, redditor AcademicGood6 decided that this budding group of like-minded runners should have a centralized hub where all future speedruns could be posted and viewed amongst themselves as well as the entire Northeastern community.

“I thought it would be cool to throw together some sort of website and Discord to go with [the Reddit submissions] to build more of a community.”

The second-year computer science and computer engineering student already had some experience building websites, so creating the official NEU Speed Runs website was no issue for them.

With the official website and Discord server in place, the speedrunners set their sights on creating smarter and faster ways to navigate a multitude of iconic campus locations. 

Among all the different runs, the most popular became the “Four Bridges Speedrun.” This run utilizes all four on-campus bridges that cross over MBTA train tracks: Ruggles, ISEC Bridge, Columbus Garage Bridge, and the Matthews Arena Bridge. The only rule is that the timer starts at the stairs at the starting bridge and ends at the stairs of the fourth and final bridge. There is no route that must be taken – that is left to the athletes themselves. 

In total, six competitors have tried their luck at topping the leaderboard for this specific run. redditor the_gingiraffe, who holds the title for the second-most upvoted speedrun video on the Northeastern subreddit, was able to accomplish the feat in an honorable five minutes and thirteen seconds. For the_gingiraffe, a cross country and track athlete in high school who was looking to find some action during lockdown, this challenge seemed like the perfect fit.

“I remember the first video that came out on Reddit and me and my friends were all talking about it, and I just thought that it was something that I could do,” the_gingiraffe said. “Once the website was built it was kind of like, ‘Okay, this is a real thing I can do now’ and I kind of went and did it.”

The challenge is equally a test of wit as well as strength. With no official route, there are many paths that could be taken which would allow the speedrunners to shave off valuable seconds, which is exactly what other challengers have done to knock the_gingiraffe off the top of the leaderboard. But having their times bested by others in the community hasn’t stopped them from coming up with new ideas for future speedruns in hopes of regaining the top position on the leaderboard. 

“I’ve been thinking of a move that could totally break the run if I could pull it off … It would be a pretty hard time to beat,” the_gingiraffe said. 

For competitive reasons, the move in question is being kept a secret.

Even for those who may not have been cross country or track athletes, there are still ways to get involved. New ideas for runs that focus less on the athlete’s personal fitness and more on individual strategy (and a bit of luck) have been created to allow anyone to find a place on the speedrunning leaderboards. Such runs include the “ResMail” speedrun, which times competitors during the process of picking up on-campus mail, as well as the “Cabot Testing Center (COVID Test) Speedrun,” which times individuals’ ability to quickly (and safely) finish the entire COVID testing routine.

In a world where “real” sports have stopped, the Speedrunners of Northeastern show that no matter what is happening in the world, the spirit of competition and sport are always there to be found. You just need to know where to look.