Books and running (my favorite combo!) came together in an unusual way this past Sunday—the James Joyce Ramble, an annual 10K (6.2 miles) held in Dedham, Mass., during which actors costumed in early 20th-century garb read aloud the rambling writings of Ireland’s arguably most-famous writer.
This year’s race was especially significant. It was the 30th running of the Ramble. It served as the USA Track & Field’s American Masters 10K Championship, attracting top runners from around the country. And it was—as it always is—the first big race near Boston after the city’s marathon.
The Ramble was born during the winter of 1983-1984: It was one of those long cold winters New England is famous for, and runner and James Joyce fan Martin Casimir Hanley of Dedham was struggling through Finnegans Wake when he was struck by the connection between the difficulty of that literary endeavor and the difficulty of training for a race.
If the inspiration for the original race in 1984 was where two difficulties converged, this year, of course, contained more. There was the tribute to lives cut too short; the race honored the victims of the marathon bombings and of the suspects’ additional actions. There was also the acknowledgement that running races had lost their simple openness and trust. It’s weird to see “security advisory” and “race” in the same sentence, but this is the new reality, I guess. (Just this morning I was stopped by that police caution tape two seconds from going into the office, which is close to the marathon finish line, as the police blocked off the area to inspect a suspicious package.)
Each mile of the James Joyce Ramble course is assigned a different work: Finnegans Wake at mile 1; Ulysses for a little fun at mile 2; mile 3 is A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Exiles at mile 4; the short-story collection Dubliners at mile 5; and that last of it, .2 miles, is dedicated to “The Dead” (which perhaps this year seems both morbid in name and deeply applicable thematically).
On the lighter note of why I signed up (and the day before), I was personally pretty nervous to “run” the race given that it’s been a looong time since I ran six whole miles (which three years ago seemed like the minimum to qualify for an actual run but now seemed almost unthinkable), but I felt that need to go Boston Strong even if it meant walking or being the absolute last person to walk that last .2 miles. (Perhaps I should have dressed in early 20th century running garb with Finnegan’s Wake tucked in a fuel belt, you know, just in case I needed to jump up on the roadside and strike a Ramble Actor Pose.)
Luckily, the last few months of being diligent about running more but being mindful of my injuries helped me listen to my body and feel pretty good about my (very slow) efforts.
Next year, of course, I plan to truly run, while reading Portrait of the Artist dressed like one of these gals.