Dedham-The James Joyce Ramble is many things – a homage to the Irish author, a human rights forum, and a running event infused with music and theater – but as the clock ticks down to this year’s version of Dedham’s unique road race, Martin Hanley is focused, above all, on water.
“Last year we had twice as much water as we usually do but because it was 90 degrees, it was still not enough,” says Hanley, the race director. “They drank every cup that was held out to them.”
The last Sunday in April can be brutally hot, or cold, windy and wet, he says. “You’re at the mercy of the vagaries of a new England spring. It’s treacherous,” says Hanley, noting that three participants were taken to the hospital last year because they ran too hard. “It’s the inexperienced runners that you have to worry about because they don’t have the experience that will give them the sense of just how hard, how fast to run.”
The 27th annual Ramble begins Sunday at 11 a.m. at Boulevard Road and East Street – not with a gun but a gong, to be rung by a special to-be-determined guest. Joseph Brogan, the retiring school music director, will lead his band down to start the race.
Just beforehand, Hanley says, a moment of silence will be held for all the people “close to us” who have died over the past year, and their names will be read.
Close to 1,500 people had registered for the 10K race by midday last Tuesday, and Hanley expects between 2,000 and 3,000 runners Sunday.
Four business days out, Hanley was fielding lots of phone calls, aptly saying, “I’ve got all these unconfirmed details that I’ve been trying to confirm the last three weeks, but now you’re hitting the ground and you’re running, and you’re running as fast
as you can.”
A forecast called for cloudy weather in the 60s.
“There’s no rain – that’s a good thing,” he says. “Looking out for any volcanic activity in the area.”
The 2010 Ramble continues to focus on the plight of Sri Lankan journalist J.S. Tissainayagam, who Hanley says was arbitrarily detained by police in March 2008 and later indicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for two articles he wrote for a monthly magazine. Tissainayagam, who is Tamil, wrote articles that addressed issues that Tamils, an ethnic minority, face in the South Asian island nation.
Tissainayagam was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison last August, was granted a release on bail this January while his appeal is pending, according to Hanley.
“There will be a group of students from that area that will be at the race to inform people of the problems” and human rights issues in Sri Lanka, Hanley says. “It’s suffering from the ravages of a long, drawn-out civil war, and the government, to put it mildly, is repressive.”
“The idea of this is to make the Ramble a platform for educating people about the need to be aware of human rights abuses around the world, whether it be exotic lands where we’ll probably never set foot on, or countries that we consider most favored trading partners,” he adds. “This is all just to make this a little bit more compelling as a running event than just a race from the start to the finish. It’s what makes the event a special one for a lot of participants, and for me, anyway, and for a lot of our volunteers.”
The Ramble and Amnesty International are calling on the Sri Lankan government to strike down Tissainayagam’s conviction and grant him an unconditional release.
Hanley’s top mission is putting on a safe event – “and then all the fun stuff comes afterwards.”
There is plenty of that, from actors performing Joyce’s works along the course, to miles with names like “Ulysses,” “The Dead” and “Exiles” (the author’s only play), to the Hillman Literary Challenge.
“Anybody who’s an English major who’s a lover of books gets a chance to enter some literary trivia challenge questions after the awards ceremony,” Hanley says. “People stand around and shout out answers to questions and it’s a lot of fun.”
In this election year, candidates including Timothy Cahill and Michael Rush are due to make appearances. Says Hanley:
“Most of them are doing water stops, and they’ll be milling around shaking hands and otherwise scaring the cattle.”
At race’s end at the Endicott Estate, up-and-coming local singer Julie Sweeney will begin performing around 11:30. The Dennis Brennan Band will also play live.
“We got a shout-out from the James Joyce Centre in Dublin for the race,” Hanley says. “They put us on their Facebook page, in fact.”
Dedham Transcript staff writer Edward B. Colby can be reached at 781-433-8336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.