Enduring the aftermath of a bigtime race like Bloomsday is a little like recovering from an old-style Italian wedding. The nearly overwhelming aura of anticipation, excitement, preparation and tradition abruptly ends, producing an emotional drop-off.
Bloomsday participants and brides and grooms in Scorcese movies all eventually face the same numbing question: What now? How do you begin to sustain, or regain, the emotional edge and intense motivation that came naturally with the relative enormity of the event?
Don Kardong, former Olympic marathoner and founder of Bloomsday, says that a couple of things are key: knowing where you’re going and continuing to identify additional goals. The phrase “knowing where you’re going” has a vital ring to it, because we’re always headed somewhere regardless of external factors like races or weddings or other inspiring events. Every single day takes us 24 hours further along toward establishing who we are and developing who we are to be. The fact is, we live many more common days than uncommon ones, and so are carried further toward fulfillment - or disappointment - by them, the ordinary plain-vanilla-nothing-special days.
Not that big events such as Bloomsday can’t play a pivotal and positive role in motivating us toward improving physical condition and overall health. Taking part allows you to be touched and transported by a wonderful, wired collective energy and vitality that may transcend any you’ll experience anywhere else.
That’s the catch. Anytime you take part in a singularly special event, you need to take care that the next day, too, presents some horizon to head toward. The difficulty of keeping that hopeful forward focus builds in proportion to the uniqueness of the undertaking. On May 6, the day before this year’s race, I asked Kardong about the literary source for his choice of the name “Bloomsday” - James Joyce’s novel “Ulysses” and its protagonist, Leopold Bloom. That novel takes place all in one day, June 1, 1904, and Kardong correlates the notion of Bloom’s living heroically for a day with the running of a torturous 12k road race - an apt assessment.
Joyce’s novel ends - mercifully - after 768 pages of Mr. Bloom’s “day.” But the spirit of the Spokane Bloomsday need not end on a Sunday morning in May with the “Rocky” theme ringing in your ears. The spirit and the song can just go on, because whatever inner voice and force inspired you to live one day heroically will still be there for you to call upon every day of your life, every step of the way.