Running Down the Walls 2011 in NYC went amazingly well. The bird of good omen flew overhead as we arrived at Prospect Park and found parking in the slot closest to the entrance. Those who have tried to park in any of the five boroughs know what that means. We took to transferring everything from the car to the start/finish/picnic spot, while one of us walked and marked the run’s route. The route is commonly known as “The Inner Loop” by local runners and two laps around equals almost exactly 3.1 miles, or 5 kilometers.
Given that this was also a picnic– outdoors, breezy, and mildly unpredictable, we set up a scaled down version of our literature table. This meant selling only buttons and water-bottles and copies of “Fire to the Prisons” magazine, which were donated to us as a fundraiser. Free literature included tri-folds about the New York State political prisoners and prisoners of war; a palm card that addresses the existence of political prisoners and prisoners of war in the United States on one side and information about NYC ABC as well as a list of our Political Prisoner Letter-Writing Dinner dates for the remainder of the year on the other side; and sign-up/sponsor sheets for the event.
We also had printed number plates for the participants. The flipside of the plates had information about NYC ABC and guidelines for writing to prisoners, making it both a memento and a useful reminder to write to folks.
Participants started arriving about 1:50 and it was clear that they were excited about Running Down the Walls and serious about their sponsorships and running.
We planned on having registration from 2:00-2:30, with a race start at 2:30. However, after a few comrades called to let us know they were on their way, we decided to wait. And while some showed up as much as an hour later and ran or walked the course, folks were stretched, warmed up, and ready to run down some damned walls! That those who showed up really late didn’t just kick down money, but also wanted to do the damned thing is a testament to the power of the event.
One NYC ABC collective member had been talking all this shit about winning last year and to expect the same for 2011. Unfortunately for that comrade, some folks brought serious running to the table. One of the participants actually got their college paid for on a track scholarship! So as a note to those looking to run down the walls in New York City– you better start training, because you WILL have real competition. A lot of folks had specialized road running shoes and a few had running shorts. And that gear was worn in and not for show.
By about 2:40, late-comers showed up and the run was on. Having the run consist of two laps gave folks an idea of the course, so they could strategize their second lap after finishing the first. The person who first crossed the finish line did so in under twenty minutes. It was the person who went to college on a track scholarship and hadn’t trained in years. The next person, maybe a minute or less off the lead, was from NYC ABC. For someone who hasn’t trained for a run since last year’s Running Down the Walls, that’s pretty impressive. Second place is FIRST runner-up, right? We’re all winners, it’s just for fun, this wasn’t a competition, et cetera– whatever it takes to make a comrade feel better, right?
The turnout was strong, with between twenty-five and thirty folks participating throughout the day and plenty of others who came to show their support. A fair number of park guests stopped at the table to get information about the prisoners, Running Down the Walls, and NYC ABC. A few runners garnered over $100 each in sponsors, and several others raised almost as much. All told, between the event and what was sold through our table, we raised a respectable amount of loot. Half of the funds will go the the ABCF Warchest Program, the remainder to the Safe OUTside the System Collective (SOS is an anti-violence program led by and for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Trans, and Gender Non Conforming people of color. They are devoted to challenging hate and police violence by using community based strategies rather than relying on the police.)
After folks cooled down and had group photos taken by Dequi (recently married to Sekou Odinga), we ate. It’s a good thing Rolling Down the Walls 2011 wasn’t a competition in regards to either the run (though the first five or eight runners certainly treated it as such) or the food. Hurt feelings are certain if anyone tried to compete with one collective member’s vegan pulled pork sandwiches. With thinly-sliced white onion and tomato on a bun…holy shit. We had sweet tea, lemonade, root beer, and ice cold water to keep us hydrated.
Folks sitting around, talking, having just shared the run, felt good. The group consisted of folks from diverse backgrounds, many of whom were new faces to our collective. Facebook friends brought IRL friends and comrades & allies turned up as well. South Brooklyn ABCF, Family and Friends of Daniel McGowan, NYC Jericho Movement, Leonard Peltier Defense/Offense Committee, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, and the Sekou Odinga Defense Committee were among the represented organizations that explicitly work on political prisoner support.
Most folks had left by 6:30 and those who stayed did so to help clean up and transfer everything to the car. So the event went as scheduled, almost to the minute.
Knowing the history of the run and the imprisoned comrades with whom we ran in solidarity elevated Running Down the Walls 2011 to an even more inspiring level.
And that’s how we get down (the walls).