I was introduced to Journey To The End of Night last year by my good friends Aki and Mark. They had participated in the inaugural Chicago running of the event in 2008 and when they told me about it I nearly died with excitement.
This year we were joined by my friends Lee, James and Kat, all who were really excited to participate.
James is an experienced runner and one of the most creative people I know so when I told him about Journey it was right up his alley and he brought along his always awesome girlfriend, Kat Carolan. Then there is Lee. Lee in addition to being one of my closest friends is he a member of local sketch comedy group, Long Pork. So naturally with his theatrical roots, Lee had to do something unique and ran the event in a suit.
This year’s Journey started off at Eckhart Park on the corner of Chicago and Noble. There we found Aki, Mark and their friend Alyssa waiting for us. There were over 400 people waiting in the park eagerly for the game to start. We picked up our maps and our arm bands, tying on our red bands symbolizing our starting status as ‘runners’ and putting the yellow ones in our pockets hoping never to need them.
Huddling together with our maps we began to formulate plans of how we would get to our first checkpoint. We had six stops to make and we knew we wouldn’t all survive but we were going to do our best to make it through. Before we knew it it was 7pm, the race was on and everyone was dashing east through the Chicago Avenue traffic.
Immediately we saw one of the “staff chasers” on a bike aggressively coming towards us. He managed to catch Kat soon after and unfortunately we had to leave her behind. Our little group got split up almost immediately but we stayed in touch and managed to reconvene at the first checkpoint on the corner of Hickory and Haines down on the South East side of Goose Island. Clearly the planners of the event had made some intelligent decisions. There are only 5 roads that enter or exit Goose Island meaning at some point every participant of the race would need to cross over one of them leaving them exposed for attack. At the first checkpoint we found people in robot costumes, they signed off our maps and gave us our clue for the second one.
We made some new friends on the way but eventually found ourselves split up and with myself, James, Lee and another guy Joey, being chased through an industrial waste management facility and almost back where we started. By the time we got our bearings we had hopped a fence into an industrial parking lot on the corner of Halsted and Division and did our best to avoid contact with other participants. When we got to the second checkpoint we caught up with Aki and Mark again but soon found that Alyssa had been caught. From there we made a pretty easy run through the third and forth checkpoints ending up in Oz park near the Tinman statues. There we came upon a giant scrabble board and tiles where we needed to create words in order to move on.
Aki and Mark were pretty beat at that point so we tried to figure out the most direct route to the 5th checkpoint, the park on Diversey Harbor. Quickly after leaving the park a female chaser came out of nowhere tagging Mark and then Aki and going for more of us. Aki took the opportunity to argue with her the legality of her double tag sacrificing herself to buy the rest of us time. The rest of us (Lee, James Joey and Chris, another guy we picked up along the way,) cut deep into the park along the zoo and managed to make it over to checkpoint 5. However, some of Chris’s friends were waiting there with yellow bands on and made it clear they planned to follow us out of the park. Chris took one for the team and lead them off in one direction while James, Joey, Lee and I ran off to the far end and managed to catch a bus up the Lakeshore drive to Rosco Street.
From there it would be a straight shot to the finish-line, The Town Hall Pub on Rosco and Halsted. We were extremely cautious as we got closer and closer. At the last minute I spotted a girl with a yellow band who saw me and then suddenly shouted “RED!!!” at the top of her lungs and charged at me. It was now 11:50; the event was ending at 12 and I had been walking almost non-stop for 5 hours. There was no way I was going to give up now. I dashed down Rosco as fast as my tired legs would carry me and lost her in a crowd outside of a bar successfully making it to the finish line where James, Lee and Joey would soon join me.
We celebrated for a bit outside before going into the bar to enjoy some music, comedy and a pitcher of sweet sweet victory. We had completed the journey and although we were all very tired we were immensely proud of what we had accomplished.
It’s been almost a week now since Journey to the End of the Night and I am still covered in mystery bruises and aches, and every time I notice them I smile and think of what a great time I had. The most profound thing for me though was something I noticed while driving to get a haircut yesterday. I was driving down Halsted Avenue in Lincoln Park and suddenly knew exactly where I was and what was around every corner. Journey has given me a deeper appreciation, understanding, and excitement for Chicago.
In the two times I have participated in it I have learned more about Chicago than in all of my three years living here. It’s made me fall in love with this city in a way that I wouldn’t have otherwise had I just continued to go about my daily life commuting too and from my job. I hope you find this conveyed in my photos, it’s definitely given me some ideas about where I’d like to go back to and shoot on future days, or maybe just hang out.
(For the first set of photos please check the first entry, found here.)