This year’s drop in the number of people entering and finishing Bloomsday doesn’t suggest any serious problems for Spokane’s annual exercise in sweat and camaraderie, race officials said Monday.
It could have been a result of the weather, new deadlines for early registration or the increase in fees for late sign-up.
The lower number of finishers likely will drop Bloomsday below San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers as the race with the largest number of registered entrants in the nation. But Spokane still will be home to the largest timed race in which each person who finishes gets an official report of how long it took to complete the course.
“We’re not as concerned with being the largest … as with providing a quality event for those who participate,” said Tom Jones, president of the Lilac Bloomsday Association.
A total of 55,270 people signed up for this year’s race, about 10 percent below last year’s record total. Of those registrants, 49,467 finished the race, a drop of about 12 percent from 1996.
Last year’s numbers probably were driven to record levels by the interest in the race’s 20th running, founder Don Kardong said.
Still, the number of registrations this year was lower than at any other time since 1987.
“I just think that the rotten weather has got to be a major cause,” Kardong said.
Race coordinator Karen Heaps agreed: “I talked to more people who said, ‘I didn’t run all winter.”’ Race officials also shaved two days off the early registration period to provide time needed to process entries.
They had no choice, Jones said. Even with the two extra days, they barely got all the registrations processed and notices mailed out.
Whether more procrastinators would have mailed in their entries during those two extra days is debatable. But the large difference in fees - from $8 for early registration to $25 for latecomers - probably took its toll on late entries.
Next year, race officials are considering a three-tier deadline, with an $8 fee for early registration, $15 for later deadline and $25 for the sign-up on race weekend.
Those who were hesitating last week may have been convinced by Saturday’s soggy weather to find something else to do Sunday.
The number of late registrants on Friday was up over previous years, but way down on Saturday, Heaps said.
“If we’d had sunshine (on Saturday) that would have made a big difference,” she said.
Race organizers can’t do anything about Spokane’s notoriously erratic May weather. But they may try to target their sales pitches to different groups next year, Kardong said.
Studies show the number of people interested in running is increasing nationwide, with the largest growth among women 20 to 29 years old. The race may increase advertising in media that appeal to that group, and have more places where registration forms are available, he said.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Bloomsday finishers
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: 26 FINISHERS CROSSED OFF LIST Twenty-six people who crossed the Bloomsday finish line won’t find their statistics in the official results today. They were disqualified, race coordinator Karen Heaps said Monday. Eighteen were filmed jumping into the race someplace along the course other than the start, she said. Most of the remainder were caught running with strollers. Race officials don’t expect any arguments from the disqualified entrants. “They know who they are,” Heaps said. Spotters are stationed along the 7.46-mile course, but officials don’t disclose how many there are, or where they are located. “Next year, we’re going to have even more,” Heaps said.