March 25, 1996 in Nation/World

Bloom Masters Annual Renewal Of Vitality Racing Grandmother Trains For 20th Bloomsday

Putsata Reang Staff writer
 

She feels fine. Except for a sore knee and stiff joints.

But that’s not enough to stop Ginny Warden.

Every other day, the 76-year-old Spokane woman jogs four miles along the bluffs of High Drive. She’s preparing, as she always does this time of year, for one of the biggest events in her life - Bloomsday.

Warden was the oldest person to run in the first Bloomsday and hasn’t missed a race since. Part of an elite group of about 150 to walk or run in all 19, now she’s limbering up for No. 20.

“I’m glad to do it,” Warden says. “It kind of keeps me a little vital.”

Warden starts training a few months before the race, like many Bloomsday runners. She loops her neighborhood in familiar rings of measured sighs and steps. She knows exactly how many laps around certain parks equal a mile.

The racing grandmother shows no signs of quitting her once-a-year athletic endeavor.

Sitting in her South Hill home, Warden opens a manila envelope, dumping 20 years of Bloomsday memories onto the kitchen table. Race times and comments are scribbled on race tags in black ink. There are notes on the side where she has documented injuries: a broken arm, a hurt knee …

Warden flips through the old tags, newspaper clippings and other memorabilia. She smiles as she reminisces.

She hunts for her tag from the first Bloomsday, when close to 1,200 people ran. Warden remembers the way the sun pressed on her cheeks that first Sunday in May 1977.

It was too hot for a good run, Warden says. But she was determined.

“I just thought, ‘I’ll stop whenever I’m tired,’ but I just kept going.”

She passed people’s homes, parked cars, and her husband, Clifford, waving fervently at various intersections. He followed along the route by car.

The first few Bloomsday routes passed by several churches. “I’d say a little prayer each time to get me a little further,” Warden says.

She never thought she’d reach the end, but she kept moving, plodding along. Another church, another prayer. Another mile.

“I felt proud,” Warden says, offering her biggest smile.

She survived her first Bloomsday, coming in second in her age group. Her only competitor: a 52-year-old woman. Warden was then 56.

The retired tax consultant moved to Spokane from Wyoming in 1974 to join Clifford in a second marriage. She now spends much of her time volunteering, particularly helping low-income and non-English speaking people fill out tax forms.

She had never run a race in her life before Bloomsday. After reading a story in the local newspaper about the first race coming up, Warden thought she’d give it a try.

It was a one-shot deal, or so she thought.

Eighteen races later, nothing stops her. Not even injuries.

In Bloomsday 1983, she ran with a broken arm, the result of a crash into a mogul during a ski trip. In 1989, she ran with a sling across one shoulder - yet another skiing accident. Last year, she raced with an aching knee.

But Warden stays committed, in part, because of her biggest fan, 80-year-old Clifford.

“I am very proud of her doing as much as she does at her age,” he says. “There aren’t very many women I know at that age who can do things like that.”

The first few years, he stood on the sidelines and cheered as his wife passed. He ran in four Bloomsdays in the 1980s, but now helps out instead. At the finish line, he rips tags off runners to mark their times.

Warden’s oldest daughter, Jennifer Hake, sees her mom as an inspiration.

“She is determined to be healthy forever,” Hake says.

Hake, who will fly from Austin, Texas to race in her 15th Bloomsday, remembers when her mom started running at age 50 in Wyoming.

The pair ran laps around a vacant lot near their home. Often, the family’s black Labrador, Tar, and their lamb, Leonard, ran beside them.

Warden never envisioned Bloomsday becoming the huge citywide event it is today.

“It’s something that just started as a small plant and kept blooming,” Warden says, giggling at her own pun.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

MEMO: If you’ve completed all 19 Bloomsdays, race officials want to know about it. Send a postcard with your race name(s), birthday, address and telephone number to Lilac Bloomsday Association, 1610 W. Riverside, Spokane 99201.

This sidebar appeared with the story: BLOOMSDAY MEMORIES Best moment: “The first time I ran the whole thing, in 1988.” Worst moment: “When I got hit by a traffic control sign. Another runner grabbed it when he was running past and it swung back at me. Enough to cause a bruise, but nothing to slow me down.” Survival tip: “Don’t try to make time. Just try to make it to the finish line.” Training: “I train with the YMCA and Holy Family clinics. If you go to at least one, it gives you more incentive to run on your own.” Special request: “Everybody who lives in Spokane should do Bloomsday at least one time. It has to do with pride in our town.”

If you’ve completed all 19 Bloomsdays, race officials want to know about it. Send a postcard with your race name(s), birthday, address and telephone number to Lilac Bloomsday Association, 1610 W. Riverside, Spokane 99201.

This sidebar appeared with the story: BLOOMSDAY MEMORIES Best moment: “The first time I ran the whole thing, in 1988.” Worst moment: “When I got hit by a traffic control sign. Another runner grabbed it when he was running past and it swung back at me. Enough to cause a bruise, but nothing to slow me down.” Survival tip: “Don’t try to make time. Just try to make it to the finish line.” Training: “I train with the YMCA and Holy Family clinics. If you go to at least one, it gives you more incentive to run on your own.” Special request: “Everybody who lives in Spokane should do Bloomsday at least one time. It has to do with pride in our town.”


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