I know four of my last six posts have been race reviews. Can you stand another? Last weekend’s race was a great event for an even more important cause, so please bear with me another week.
We ran the 10k at the 20th Annual Ricky Birdsong Memorial Race Against Hate on Father’s Day. There were also 5k and Youth Mile and Half Mile races. Ricky Birdsong was the men’s basketball coach for Northwestern, who, just about 20 years, ago was murdered by a white supremacist. His killer went on a rampage that Independence Day weekend in 1999 that left 7 wounded and another dead.
You would think after 20 years, we’d be in a better place, but we’re not. In the last few years hate crimes have actually risen. There was a 17% increase in bias-motivated crimes based on race, religion, disability and gender in 2017 from the previous year and hate crimes have continued to increase steadily in each consecutive year since 2015 (justice.gov).
It was nice to see more than 5000 people there to show their support for the mission. The event was organized by the YWCA of Evanston. It essentially took place on the campus of Northwestern University just about a 20-minute drive north of my Lakeview Chicago neighborhood. The staging area on Floyd Long Field was filled with sponsors and activities.
The course was flat with several turns. Even with Lake Michigan obscured by thick fog, I thought the course was pretty. There was one out-back point in mile 2 when 10k runners were tight on the bike path in opposite directions although everyone was moving swiftly enough and allowing for faster runners to pass, so it was not a real issue.
The 10k started at 7:30am and the 5k, 20 minutes later. My only complaint is that the courses intersected with about a mile to go. This put 10k runners pacing much faster on the course heading to the finish with much slower 5k runners and walkers. I’d like to see race organizers split those groups with cones or at least course marshals urging those moving slower to stay to the right.
I wasn’t in the midst of running my fastest 10k, so it honestly didn’t matter. I was thinking about how meaningful the race was and how “hate” and simply ignorance about people of different races, religions, ethnicities, genders, or sexual orientation is a real problem.
It’s pride month. I live a few blocks from Boystown here in Chicago. Pride flags are everywhere! We are a city that earlier this year elected our first black, female, openly lesbian mayor. And yet in the New Jersey town I left a year ago, residents are battling over the right to fly pride flags and I learned today that a black man in that town was told by a neighbor to take his family and “move back to the ghetto” because “there is no room for ghetto people here.”
So yeah, the Race Against Hate was awesome! A nice event, on a nice course, on Father’s Day to honor a father, who continues to serve as a reminder of what hate can take from us, but that ultimately love wins. Every town needs a “race against hate.”