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A little history

A little Ramble History


Over the long cold winter of 1983-84, avid runner and James Joyce fan Martin Casimir Hanley of Dedham was struggling through "Finnegans Wake" when the thought occurred to him that this literary task was as tough as training for a race...and Voila! The James Joyce Ramble was conceived.


Thus, 244 runners gathered on the banks of the Charles in the Riverdale section of Dedham on Sunday, March 26, 1984 and the Ramble was rolling.


   - Tom Hurley, New England Roadrace Historian


Since 1984, The James Joyce Ramble has grown in scope aand ambition and has been chronicled in the New York Times, Sports Illustrated,Christian Science Monitor, The Wall Street Journal,  Runners World, National Public Radio, The Boston Globe, ESPN, New England Runner Magazine among others.


From the Boston Globe in 2009...


On April 25, the prose hits the road as it has for the last 26 years that Martin Casimir Hanley, a Dedham son and literature-loving actor, has organized the James Joyce Ramble, an eclectic local road race staged in honor of the late Irish author which also, more recently, functions as a statement for human rights.


The quirky annual run combines works of the heady Irishman with pure athletics and also fund-raising for a good cause. So far, about $325,000 has been sent to support the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

Held historically a week or so after the Boston Marathon, scores of legitimate runners, as well as amateurs and 10K wannabees, crowd the starting line at the glamorous Endicott Estate for the about 6-mile jaunt. There is also a walking course and a kids' run.


Hanley dreamed up the concept in 1984 at a time he was reading "Finnegan's Wake," which he has said he found as difficult to plod through as a road race.

Thus, the first race, according to records, was held on March 26, 1984, with 244 runners.


The course loops by historical landmarks like Noble and Greenough School, Dedham Square, the Dedham Historical Society, Norfolk Superior Court, and even the Fairbanks House, on the corner of Whiting Avenue and East Street, the oldest wood-framed home still standing in North America, according to town records.


Approximately two dozen costumed actors read the works of Joyce aloud along the route, prompting Hanley to analyze the event as the only one of its kind where the audience moves past the performers. Six works are featured, beginning with "Finnegan's Wake," to "Ulysses," to "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," "Exiles," "Dubliners," and, finally in the last mile, "The Dead."


Over the years, organizers have dedicated the race to controversial writers like Vaclav Hamel, Xu Wenli, Burma's Aung San Suu Ky, and many others, according to records. Also journalists like the late Daniel Pearl, of The Wall Street Journal, and former hostage Jill Carroll, formerly of the Christian Science Monitor.

What Hanley said he loves best is when people of all political persuasions come together as one in a united event: "As polarized as this country seems to be, it's good to see them working together.''


This year's race will be run in honor of Sri Lankan journalist J.S. Tissainayagam, who was detained by the police in Colombo on March 7, 2008, and subsequently indicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for two articles written by him in a monthly magazine, Hanley said.

On Aug. 31, 2009, he was convicted and sentenced to 20 years rigorous imprisonment, he said. Tissainayagam is appealing his conviction and on Jan. 11 he was released on bail while his appeal is pending.

Amnesty International considers Tissainyagam a prisoner of conscience. His wife, Ronnate, who is studying at a university in the Boston area, plans to be at the race.

The Ramble is joining Amnesty International in a call on the Sri Lankan government to strike down the conviction and grant an unconditional release, Hanley said.


Go to for more information on how to register for the event.

Michele Morgan Bolton can be reached at