Amid the lustrous sea of Spandex and nylon, Spokane’s true colors stood out Saturday during the first Bloomsday training clinic.
A community known for being white bread looked more like a heaping pot of stew.
Native Americans and African Americans stretched calf muscles alongside whites and Asians. Old men with ponytails and walking sticks jogged abreast baby carriages. The big and talls swapped smiles and race stories with the short and smalls.
It was billed as spring training for the world’s largest timed road race. It was more like a giant family reunion.
An estimated 730 people shook off winter early Saturday for warm-up aerobics at West Central Community Center before heading out on a one-mile run/jog/walk.
“It’s a unifying thing for the community,” said Tony Anthony, who will run in his 19th of 20 Lilac Bloomsday races come May 5.
“It’s an opportunity for everybody, no matter what their physical condition,” he said. “Whether you’re an elite runner or pushing a stroller, there is a place for you.”
The free clinic started in 1978 before the second Bloomsday race and has been a fixture ever since.
Also on Saturday, about 40 people turned out for a Bloomsday and Spring Dash clinic in Coeur d’Alene. The Spring Dash is April 21.
This year’s Spokane clinic, which runs seven consecutive Saturdays before the big race, is sponsored by Holy Family Hospital, Group Health Northwest and Sta-Fit Racquet & Athletic Clubs.
Retired Boeing aircraft engineer Howard Stamp, 69, saw a 1989 ad about the clinic and jumped on the Bloomsday bandwagon.
“Everybody just seems friendlier” this time of year, Stamp said. “They’re more upbeat and enjoy talking to each other. It’s festive. I enjoy the party atmosphere.”
Marga Snipes, a racewalking consultant and Bloomsday veteran, attributes the community spirit surrounding the race to a network of crackerjack organizers and generous volunteers.
Even the Bay To Breakers run in San Francisco can’t match Spokane when it comes to satisfying 50,000-plus racers, she said.
“Everyone doesn’t realize how wonderful this race is until they’ve run somewhere else,” said Snipes. “We are a family here. There are human beings, but this is about humans being.”
It was love of family that beckoned Cheri Korbel and her three children, although for a deeper reason.
Korbel’s 30-year-old husband, Darrell, a Bloomsday and fitness fanatic, was killed three years ago when a tree fell in a windstorm and crashed into his car.
Thirteen-year-old Erin Korbel is making her third Bloomsday appearance, but sister Katie, 8, and brother Buddy, 7, are making their debuts - Buddy reluctantly.
“We’re doing it to carry on Darrell’s tradition,” Cheri said. “We’ll be wearing T-shirts that say, ‘In Memory of Darrell.”’
The Saturday clinics will continue at 8:30 a.m. at the community center, 1603 N. Belt. The 9 a.m. runs will increase by one mile each week.
Bloomsday participants are advised to work out on their own at least three times a week to be in shape by race time.
Anthony, the Bloomie veteran, already is looking ahead to the big day.
He introduced his wife, Pat, to the event in the late 1970s and initially was accustomed to outrunning her. That’s changed, though.
“I’m in a duel with my wife,” he said. “She’s beat me the last 10 years, but I’m gonna get her this year.
“I’ll have cronies on the sidelines who’ll be watching us. If she gets ahead, they’ll tie her up.”
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