Yesterday morning at 7:30 am I was standing toward the front of a pack of about 750 people in the middle of Sheridan Road at Lincoln St. in Evanston, the nearest north suburb of Chicago. We were all raring to run the 15th Annual Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate, scheduled to go at any moment. Our 10k group would start out, followed 15 minutes later by a much larger – close to 5,000 participants – 5k group. As the police were performing the final route check a few minor issues had to be dealt with, so we were all pumped up with the hold button firmly depressed.
The Race Against Hate is a family friendly, Father’s Day event that honors the legacy of Ricky Byrdsong, a beloved coach of the Northwestern Wildcats Basketball team killed by a white supremacist in 1999. A father figure to many, Byrdsong was an inspirational man, and after his death his wife Sherialyn created the race as a way to make something positive out of the horror of the murder. This was my fourth consecutive run in the event.
As I continued to wait I kept gently stretching as well, and as I did so I enjoyed looking around and seeing the many young people amongst the participants, some running with their dads, and some just itching for a notch on their cross-country belts.
Delay moments like these are when you get your money’s worth out of a paid professional announcer – and this guy is one of Chicagoland’s best. He kept us engaged by playing some music and speaking kindly of the event sponsors in his melodic baritone. I’m not so sure, however, that he was the one choosing the music. I bent over to hit the hamstrings again, and while I’m down there the loudspeakers started clinking out this old Bob Dylan ditty:
Well, they’ll stone you when you’re trying to be so good
They’ll stone you just like they said they would
They’ll stone you when you’re tryin’ to go home
Then they’ll stone you when you’re there all alone
But I would not feel so all alone
Everybody must get stoned
I smiled, curled my way slowly upright, and glanced at my high school Italian teacher friend with whom I happened to be standing.
“Bob Dylan’s great,” she said with a smile.
Dylan wrapped up, we all hummed along to “Take Another Little Piece of My Heart” by Janice Joplin, the horn sounded, and off we ran.
Thanks for reading.