When I did this two years ago
, I didn't even manage to reach the second checkpoint. I was pretty bad as a Runner, and possibly even worse as a Chaser--I didn't come close to tagging a single person. I resolved to be better this time around.
I decided to join about ten minutes before the Journey was scheduled to start. Luckily, the start was a little late, giving me just enough time to get to the park before someone started shouting at us with a bullhorn. While we listened to the unintelligible shouting, I worried about not being able to run fast enough, and each of my friends lit up a cigarette. Hmm, I thought, in that case I might actually be able to keep up...
At the 2008 Journey, we took off at a dead sprint. Reflecting back on it later, we realized that we hadn't seen any chasers at all until we'd already reached the first checkpoint--almost as though the game was set up so we could all at least get one
thing checked off our manifests. We thought this kind, and decided to take advantage, game the system a little. So while everyone else ran, we sauntered.
This was a terrible idea.
Because, in fact, there were plenty of Chasers lying in wait for us. Their numbers had been swelled by the many people in front of us. And by the time we hopped over some razor wire to get through a shortcut, there were a good dozen Chasers pacing right outside the 100 feet of safety provided by the river. So we cut back and tried to make it over the bridge. The Runners in front of us didn't make it through, so full of fear, we jumped off the bridge (a good ten feet, and let me tell you, I felt pretty heroic after doing it) and onto the property of a city college. But alas, we were not safe there either--plenty of Chasers were lying in wait down there, as well. Plus, the college's security guards weren't too pleased to have us on the property. After dithering for a while, the guards got fed up with us and started calling the cops. So off we went, sprinting in two separate directions. One half went in precisely the correct direction, toward the first checkpoint. The other half was chased up the bridge again, where we'd been trapped just a half-hour ago.
Guess which group I was in.
Hiding nervously on the bridge, one of us managed to get through to Sprite. His group had already reached the checkpoint! We begged them to wait for us, but there was only 15 minutes left before the checkpoint closed. If we wanted to keep going, we'd have to make a break for it soon. The plan, to use a bus to get over the bridge and through the line of Chasers, was nixed for taking too much time. Finally, we screwed our courage to the sticking post and decided to just brazen it out. Walking casually arm-in-arm, the three of us sauntered across the bridge. At this point, I think the Chasers had decided all the Runners were gone, and somehow we actually managed to get to the first checkpoint. The Checkpointers were packing up, and seemed pretty surprised to see us. But we didn't care how late we were--we'd made it! 1 down, 5 more to go...At that rate, we should have been done around sunrise.
Luckily, the next checkpoints were all much easier to get to. We created poems at the Whole Foods checkpoint, then gave confession at the third. We made it to Oz Park without much trouble, but once there, were at a loss. The park was full of Runners roaming around, calling out to each other. None of us could figure out where the checkpoint actually *was*. After jamming through the last two checkpoints, it felt like we were losing momentum. Eventually we found the checkpoint and then sat down for a well-earned rest. J. passed around a small bag of pretzels, which both satiated our hunger and made us all uncomfortably thirsty.
Our luck changed for the worst as we walked out of the park's safe zone. We noticed a single man in a metal t-shirt following us. His red ribbon didn't alleviate our suspicions; we'd seen him talking to two Chasers too many times. We believed that he was scouting for potential victims for his Chaser friends (paranoia had clearly set in), so we stayed as far from him as possible. But actually, his duckling impression proved to be beneficial to us (but very harmful to him); a Chaser broke from cover and starting chasing us. As we ran, metal-dude tripped on a flower bed and went sprawling. A diversion! We escaped; I don't know if he did. From then on, Chasers seemed to be everywhere. We took only side streets and walked as silently and quickly as possible. We sent scouts forward and back, but staying in contact was hard: clearly we couldn't yell warnings to each other without giving away our locations, and if phones are kept on vibrate or silent, people rarely realize they're being called/texted. So although our scouts alerted us to imminent Chasers on a number of occasions, it wasn't a perfect system. This we realized to our sorrow when several Chasers converged on our position in a pincer movement. Our scouts took off; the remainder of the team (including me) ducked down behind cars. We heard the Chasers walking past us. We strained to barely breathe while not moving a muscle. And then, just as I thought they'd moved off, a Chaser lent down over the car and said jovially, "there you are!"
If he hadn't said a word, simply tagged me, I'd have been toast. (This is why superheroes should kick ass first, THEN get snarky.) As it was, it gave us just enough warning to take off like rabbits. We scattered into the alleys. There were four of us in one--we each took our own trash can. We waited, trying to calm our adrenaline surges. Slowly, moving as silently as possible, we converged in the cover of a single garage and sent a text to the scouts. Minutes passed. I felt a mixture of terror, excitement, and increasing boredom. And then finally, an "all clear" from the scouts. We scrambled out of the alley and made it to the fifth checkpoint on the lake.
By this time we were all foot-sore, tired, and thirsty. Plus, I had to pee something awful. We toyed with the idea of trying to crash the donors' party going on at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Tiny drinks! Some sort of lightshow! The possibility of restrooms! But looking down at our sweaty, bedraggled selves, we realized it was an impossibility. The scouts tried to persuade us to take a long and circuitous route, but by this time, the rest of us were so tired we were barely putting one foot in front of the other. Hours of adrenaline-highs, sprinting, crouching, climbing, jumping,and just plain walking were beginning to take their toll. So instead, we just walked straight up Lake Shore Drive. We no longer kept watch; we no longer kept our voices down and our footfalls hushed. We just walked.
And somehow, against all odds, against my expectation, we made it! We actually made it to the last checkpoint! We got our final stickers and stood around, unsure what to do now that we were finally free from the terror of being tagged. One by one, we straggled away--some to go drinking, and some (ie, me) to go to the bathroom and then to SLEEP FOREVER.