30 years of rambling around Dedham
“His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”
James Joyce published the memorable last line of his short story, “The Dead” from the book, “The Dubliners,” 100 years ago in 1914. On Sunday, April 27, actor Dale Appel read those same words to mark the 30th anniversary of the James Joyce Ramble – a unique road race that combines the literary talents of the famous Irish author with the dedication of competitive athletes.
Appel was just one of roughly 30 actors to flank the edges of the race to read Joyce’s words as runners raced by. Having read Joyce in high school, Appel said she was familiar with his works. Otherwise, it was just a fun way to spend a Sunday, she said.
“It’s funny because they’re not really hearing you as you read,” Appel said. “I try to raise my voice so they can hear me, but I’m not sure that they do.”
One runner, Paul Buton, of Sharon, said it was the most Joyce he’d ever encountered.
“That’s the most James Joyce I’ve heard in my whole life,” Buton said, adding it was his first time running the race. “Dedham is a gorgeous town and it seems like you’re running through all the nice parts. It’s a really fun race.”
Avid runner, Joyce aficionado and Dedham resident, Martin Hanley, started the race in 1984 after struggling to get through Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake.” It struck him that reading the novel was just as tough as training for a race, and the ramble was born.
The first James Joyce Ramble hosted 244 runners, who gathered on the banks of the Charles in the Riverdale section of Dedham. Since then, the race has grown exponentially in size, reaching over 2,500 participants at its height, with just under 2,000 running this year. Hanley attributed the lower turnout to an unseasonably cold day with clouds threatening rain, and the proximity to the Boston Marathon, which was held just a week prior.
“I was just glad it stopped raining at 5 a.m.,” Hanley said, “and that our volunteers didn’t catch hypothermia.”
In addition to a literary and athletic event, the ramble serves as a human rights forum, Hanley said. This year, the event focused on the plight of nine Ethiopian journalists, who were being help on charges of terrorism, Hanley told the Transcript.
A former journalist himself, Hanley said he always thought it was important to use the running event as a venue to champion human rights, and freedom of speech in particular. The first ramble was dedicated to Vaclav Havel, a Czech playwright, essayists and political dissident who protested the Communist government.
“I didn’t want this to be just another high caliber running event where you watch athletes run hard for the money,” Hanley said. “I believe in running events that encourage people to get involved in some kind of physical fitness because of the obesity epidemic in this country, but I thought that if I can do these other programs on the side as part of the event, and if it doesn’t distract from my core mission of putting on a world class running event in a suburb of Boston just after the Boston Marathon, then I’d do it.”
Carrying an American and “All Gave Some, Some Gave All” flag, Newton resident Heather Viveiros ran for a different cause: supporting “Gold Star” families, or the families of fallen soldiers. She ran with a team to raise money and show support for the families, as well as veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
To mark the 13th anniversary of Sept. 11 this year, Viveiros said she plans to run every race carrying the two flags to remind people that freedom comes at a price. It’s not just the soldiers who sacrifice, she said; it’s their families and friends as well.
“For the families of veterans, it’s about hope,” Viveiros said. “When they see that flag fly, it lets them know that we don’t forget and we won’t ever forget the sacrifices they made for our freedom.”