The news was announced in front of a media throng worthy of a declaration of war: Spokane would be invaded by a record number of people who would paralyze the streets of downtown, then run like mad.
The Tuesday morning announcement was the kickoff to Bloomsday, Spokane’s 22-year-old running ritual.
With an audience of television cameras, microphones and one buzzing cell phone, Bloomsday President Connie Bischoff said this year’s race could attract more runners than ever - 65,000.
“I’m an accountant, a banker, and I like numbers and that’s how I got that number,” Bischoff said jokingly.
The race could break a record this year, Bischoff said, because of three factors: a mild winter that has allowed more people to train, the novelty of a new course and an online registration system.
The number of registered participants dropped last year to a seven-year low of 55,270 from an all-time high of 61,298 in 1996. To date, 2,000 to 3,000 have registered for this year’s race on May 3.
“Well, you know, it’s a guess,” said Don Kardong, who founded the race 22 years ago.
“But it’s a reasonable guess,” he said, citing the same three reasons as Bischoff.
Due to construction at River Park Square, the Bloomsday course has been changed from its traditional route ending at Riverfront Park. The race will finish in front of the Spokane County Courthouse on Broadway.
This also is the first year the race has offered online registration and payment. Bloomsday organizers hope to have the system running by Thursday at www.bloomsdayrun.com or .org.
“It’s fast. Fast. This thing is really fast,” said Mark Starr, the Bloomsday board member handling online registration.
Once it works, online registration shouldn’t take more than five minutes and will provide entrants with immediate verification of their application, Starr said.
Credit card payments will be secure, Starr said, but a phone number will be provided to folks who don’t feel safe sending their VISA or Mastercard number over the World Wide Web. Payment can also be made with a check or money order.
It won’t cost any more to run the race this year. It’s still $8, but entries postmarked after April 13 will cost a foot-dragging $25.
Paper registration forms can be picked up at US Bank and its branches, Safeway stores, Snyder Bakery outlets and Big 5 Sporting Goods.
As to how many elite runners will be coming to the all-new Bloomsday course, Kardong said: “I haven’t got a clue who will be here yet.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo Graphic: Bloomsday registration
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: FREE CLINICS Free Bloomsday training clinics are being sponsored by Holy Family Hospital. The seven-week clinics start Saturday at 8:30 a.m. at the Spokane Falls Community College gymnasium at 3410 W. Fort George Wright. Call Holy Family Hospital at 482-2356.