Chicago Journeys into the end of the night

Runners plan their next move in the safe-zone. Photo by Luis Badillo
Runners plan their next move in the safe-zone. Photo by Luis Badillo

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hile the lives of Bridgeport residents carried on like they do every Saturday, a wide-scale conflict was occurring right under their noses. A tale of subterfuge, crooked politicians, and the fate of all American citizens hung in the balance as over 200 Chicagoans engaged in the nonprofit organization Story Luck’s bi-annual game of tag.

The event, called Journey To the End of the Night (JttEotN), had participants gather in Armour Square Park on June 13 to hold an epic game of adult tag, where players were given maps with secret locations and instructions to reach five checkpoints across the Bridgeport neighborhood. With a playing field roughly seven square miles wide, any transportation outside of the CTA or your own two feet was forbidden.

Rules dictated that all players would wear green headband to indicate they were still a runner (any player who hasn’t been tagged out). Anyone who had been tagged out by any of the initial three chasers was to hand over their green headband, put on the grey one, and become a chaser themselves. Trophies were given out for the player who reached the end first and for the player who scored the most headbands.

Throughout the evening, skirmishes affected the South Side neighborhood. Frightened groups of green-headband-wearing pedestrians scattering at the sight of a single grey-headband-wearing assailant became an all too common scene on that rainy night.

One scene played out on the corner of 35th Street and Damen Avenue when one chaser leaped from behind a parked van and tagged a runner, one of a group. The rest of the runners disappeared as quickly as the chaser claimed his trophy-the green headband of the runner. At which point, the runner put on his own grey headband, feeding into the cycle of pretend violence to affect Bridgeport that night.

“We ran for our lives,” a runner name Mitch said. He and his fellow runners Arlene and Honey said they were followed by a chaser onto a CTA train. “When we got off the train, one of the chasers started to chase us.” Any CTA bus or train was considered a safe zone along with the checkpoints. Dashing from one to the other ensured the runner would remain in the race. So how did all three survive? “He [the chaser] got stopped by a stop light. He couldn’t go anywhere,” said Mitch.

Other players weren’t lucky enough to travel in groups. A runner named Ismail was separated from his friends on the way to a checkpoint in a rain-soaked McKinley Park at dusk. “I’m supposed to meet up with them there,” he said, “assuming they’re all still in the game.”

Ismail changed strategies to stay in the race. “Being alone basically means you can’t be on any street.” He resorted to traveling through alleys and dark areas where he was less likely to get spotted. “With a group, we can check corners and keep eyes out with each other.”

Using those eyes to keep each other safe would become more necessary as the make-believe conflict progressed. As the night progressed, the chasers grew in numbers. Cermak Road became dangerous for runners. A pair of jogging chasers was visibly patrolling up and down the road, while others camped outside CTA bus stops.

By the end of the night, about 80 runners made it to the last checkpoint by the 11:11 pm cutoff. The other 120 either became chasers or never made it. Daniel Boyd, president of Story Luck’s board of directors, congratulated all those who finished.

For those interested in the next JttEotN in October, visit EXTRA was unable to independently confirm whether Ismail ever found his friends.

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