More than 54,000 people ran, walked and rolled through the streets of Spokane on Sunday. Some wore costumes and T-shirts with silly slogans such as “I’m Stupid” and “I’m With Stupid.” Crowds on the side delivered balloons, bongos and bands.
For the top finishers, Bloomsday ‘95 wasn’t much of a race. The winners easily shattered course records.
For everybody else, it was a heck of a race.
“We had to walk the hill,” admitted a red-faced Janet Ingalls, 32, sweaty tendrils of hair sticking to her neck, as she tried to run to the finish line.
Josphat Machuka, 19, of Kenya, helped set the tone for the record-breaking Bloomsday. Last year’s Bloomsday winner raced himself this year.
He almost ran over a press motorcycle. He almost ran over a power walker in pink sweats and a purple jacket who seemed surprised at the runners who had caught her from behind.
His time of 33 minutes and 41 seconds was 28 seconds faster than the second-place finisher’s.
No one else had a chance.
Dan Hamner tried. He stayed with Machuka for all of about 600 yards.
The 55-year-old sports medicine doctor from New York City started matching Machuka pump for pump, stride for stride along Broadway. Hamner, who looks like a skinny Santa Claus, dashed along the sidewalk.
Hamner trains with a 50-year-old woman who ran the race. Hamner wanted to run too, but was injured. So instead, he decided to stick with the leader for a little while.
He stopped running after just a few blocks, shaking his head, grinning to his ears.
“I was having fun,” Hamner said. “It was a thrill.”
The other winners defeated their closest competitors by more than a minute.
Delillah Asiago, 23, also of Kenya, was the fastest woman runner in 38:19. Paul Wiggins, 32, of Australia, won the men’s wheelchair competition in 25:28. Jean Driscoll, 28, of Champaign, Ill., won the women’s wheelchair race in 31:24.
Yes, the winners made it look easy.
Then came the masses. Some chatted as they ran. Some clenched their teeth. Some walked the stiff-legged corncob walk of those who had tried to run too far, too fast with no training.
Faces slack, muscles tight, they huffed and they puffed and they ran the course down.
Jimmy Anglin, 10, of Post Falls, tried to run most of the way. No walking for him. He had to cream his 17-year-old sister, who had beaten him by 1 second last year.
“She’s in my dust,” a confident Anglin said.
The boy stood out. His face and his hair were green, colored with a bingo marker. He wanted to be on TV. Underneath the green, his face glowed red.
Other runners aimed for a less conspicuous look. They were cheaters - those late bloomers who jumped in along the Bloomsday route after the gun had gone off.
Near the sidewalk in front of the Spokane Club, more than a dozen runners - a group of overweight men, two middle-aged women, a bald runner with muscular legs - jumped in, not so subtly.
“We paid!” said a man with graying hair. “It’s just more convenient. You don’t have to get here so early.”
He added, “We call it blending.”
But others didn’t take the blending lightly.
“Bloomsday brings out the best in people, but it brings out the worst, too,” one spectator clucked.
Tim Prochaska, 35, of Sandpoint, kept a pack of cigarettes in his fanny pack as he ran Bloomsday in a respectable hour and 22 minutes. Not bad for a smoker and for a man recovering from having fractured his left leg while fishing a month ago.
Prochaska was on his third cigarette, 40 minutes into the race.
As the runners bobbed through the course, they watched spectators on the sidelines.
Men in T-shirts inside their apartments stared out windows. Nuns waved colorful ribbons. Families in RVs planted pink flamingos and spinning sunflowers near lawn chairs and cheered runners up Doomsday Hill.
Ryan Richards, 6, of Arlington, Wash., waited for his dad near Jefferson and Broadway. He had expected his father to be running up near the leader. Instead, it took his dad closer to two hours.
Richards held signs cheering on the runners and, along with three friends, gave them high fives.
Then someone fell at the corner. Richards stood near the man, his sign at his side. The man tried to stand up and move forward, but he fell back, disoriented, his face white and lips gray-blue. Medical aides from across the street quickly started an IV and carried the man to the aid center.
“I’m not doing this anymore,” said Richards, shaken by the man’s fall.
The man later went on to finish the race.
At medical aid stations, workers treated 10 cases of heatstroke - none serious, although one man had a temperature of 108.2 degrees. Two people suffered severe shoulder injuries at the start when they fell, said Dr. Ed Rockwell, Bloomsday’s medical director.
But in the end, most people made it through Bloomsday OK. They may not have been the fastest runners, but they may have been the most colorful.
Joe Phillips, 38, wants it known he could have been up there at the front with Josphat Machuka if it hadn’t been for that darn cardboard clock tower on his head. He first wore it four years ago, just after having had open-heart surgery.
This time, the tower was papered with running tags from 16 Bloomsdays - 12 for Phillips, four for his wife. A clock that usually hangs in Phillips’ basement dangled from the rear clock tower wall.
“It kind of stands out in the crowd,” Phillips said. “This was my excuse for not finishing first.”