Veteran Bloomies Run Old Course, Tell Old Stories At 20-Year Reunion
They’re older and grayer now. Less daring. They’ve developed habits like playing pinochle, starting every sentence with “I remember when …” - and running Bloomsday.
They met in front of the Spokane Convention Center, sporting old race T-shirts as family members snapped Kodak memories.
They’re Bloomies who have completed all 19 races, a badge of honor held by only about 150 runners.
Seventy-nine of them gathered Sunday morning to run the old course, a special tribute organized by Bloomsday officials.
“They’ve done something nobody else has done,” said Lori Shauvin, who coordinated the event. “We just wanted to do something for their 20th race.”
Many started reminiscing the moment they arrived at the starting line.
Ken Hendrix, 74, talked about the year his appendix was removed and he still ran Bloomsday “just to keep up a streak.”
Jon Gardner, 58, remembered the first race, when he felt like he was running a marathon. “I was happy when I ran a mile,” he said. “I was glad it was over and I was still upright.”
Gene Hyde, 67, said there wasn’t a parking problem in the old days like there is now. He takes the bus.
By the time race founder Don Kardong signaled the group to start the race on Sunday, many were well into their Bloomsday autobiographies.
At 9:15 a.m., the runners were off.
They blitzed down Spokane Falls Boulevard, wound through downtown streets, then headed across the Maple Street Bridge. The sun was comforting; warm rays glinted off neon-colored hats and white hair.
There were no crowds of spectators mobbing the sidewalks, no people in their yards egging them on. Just a few drivers who honked in tribute, and two aid stations, where volunteers from the Road Racers clapped and played the “Rocky” theme song on a boombox.
A few stopped on Summit Boulevard to take in the view - a sight they’ve missed since 1980. That’s when the course was changed amid fears the Maple Street Bridge could collapse under the bouncing weight of thousands of runners.
This time, the runners took their time. There was no hurry to finish. The run wasn’t timed, and many wanted to save their energy for Bloomsday next Sunday.
Around noon, the last of the Bloomies, Lowell Corbin, ambled across an imaginary finish line.
He wore a blue-and-red striped bandanna, baby-blue jogging pants and a pouch around his waist that carried a can of Diet Coke.
He has continued his own Bloomsday tradition. For 19 years, he has run toting a can of soda.
“About halfway through the race, you need a little boost,” the 70-year-old retired schoolteacher said. “That caffeine gives you the kick you need to finish.”
There was no special ceremony at the end, just an intimate party in the park, where runners swapped battle stories and updated one another on children and grandchildren.
It was like a high school reunion, with sliced oranges, sugar cookies and endless reminiscing.
Don Migliuri, 49, ran Sunday’s race about 30 minutes faster than the first Bloomsday. Back then, he was ill-prepared for the annual run.
“I had a big meal of pancakes and coffee, and I hadn’t trained more than five miles,” he said.
Like most of the other runners Sunday, Migliuri couldn’t remember much about past races, but he’s proud of his accomplishments.
“There’s a blend of memories,” Migliuri said. “But being able to have 20 years sustains you. It makes you want to keep going.”
Dan O’Meara, 47, was excited to see so many people show up for the event.
“There’s more gray hairs and less hair,” O’Meara said. “But we’re all in shape.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo