May 7, 1996 in Nation/World

Results Bring Up Rear S-R Bloomsday Special Section A Late Finisher

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Preachers say no wedding, no matter how well-planned, goes off without a glitch.

The same is true of road races.

This year, for the first time since the Spokane Daily Chronicle started publishing a list of all Bloomsday finishers in 1980, the special newspaper section was not in newsstands the day after the race.

A Bloomsday computer system making its maiden run was slower than expected, meaning The Spokesman-Review got race data more than 10 hours past deadline.

The 40-page section is included in today’s newspaper.

By most accounts, the slow data was the only flaw in Sunday’s race which boasted good weather, few injuries and a record-breaking crowd of well-mannered racers and walkers.

Of the 61,298 people who registered for the race, 56,156 finished it. That’s about 300 more finishers than the previous record set in 1991.

Race officials disqualified only 13 Bloomies for running with baby strollers, skipping part of the course or other bad manners.

“Last year, I think we had 50-something (rule-breakers),” said race coordinator Karen Heaps.

The largest timed race in the nation, Bloomsday also is the largest that offers every finisher a chance to see his or her name in the local newspaper.

Some out-of-towners who stay an extra day in Spokane each year pick up The Spokesman-Review’s special section before they leave. The Monday afternoon offering is the only extra edition the paper publishes all year.

This year, racers had to wait until this morning to see their names in print.

Managing Editor Scott Sines said the newspaper must receive the finishers’ list by midnight race day if readers are to see it on Monday. This year, the huge computer file didn’t get to the newspaper until 10:30 a.m. Monday.

The late arrival means this year’s section doesn’t include finishing times for corporate teams or lists of the top finishers in each age division. There simply wasn’t time to include those statistics, said project coordinator Neil Felgenhauer.

For the first time, Bloomsday staff and volunteers compiled race data themselves, rather than relying on Medical Service Corp. computers and technicians. Heaps said the switch to personal computers was required because MSC abandoned its main-frame computer since last year’s race.

Race founder Don Kardong said a week before the race that computer problems were his biggest concern. Programmers were still putting the system together.

Programers are confident they can speed up the computer before next year’s race, Heaps said.

“Believe me, we’ll be working on it,” she said. “I think everybody’s going to take a little bit of a break” and then start planning next year’s race.

Bleary-eyed and frustrated, Spokesman-Review staff members working on the Bloomsday project nevertheless said they were sympathetic to the race’s computer problems.

“They basically built a new system and this is the first time they’ve had a chance to test it,” said Dave Bender, who has put together computer systems for the newspaper.

“I went down to the bank awhile ago. They had a new system and they had problems, too.”

By the time the Bloomsday computer finished its work, race officials and newspaper editors had been up all night - some nursing sore muscles from running the race.

“My Achilles’ tendons hurt really bad,” said copy editor Gina Boysun.

Felgenhauer ran Bloomsday in a blistering 49:57, went home for a nap, then came to the newsroom for his traditional Bloomsday double-shift.

Felgenhauer has 12 years’ experience putting together the section, which he considers 56,000 “one-line stories of somebody’s personal achievement.”

In the race to get the list of finishers into print, at least one error went uncorrected.

Virginia Sutphin, whose name appears on the list of the 20 oldest Bloomies, is 64, not 95. Bloomsday volunteers apparently misread her age when they typed in the data, Heaps said.

But Sutphin’s enviable time of one hour, 10 minutes is correct, along with 83-year-old Mabel Klein’s time of 1:34.

“I saw her come in” to the finish line, Heaps said of Klein. “She’s my role model.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo


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