A year ago, Brian Kenna was running during his lunch hours. The Spokane accountant hoped to shave seconds off his Bloomsday time, already a speedy 48 minutes.
This year, Kenna is just happy to be home.
On Thursday, Kenna flew into Spokane from Mosul, Iraq, where he serves with the 426th Civil Affairs Battalion. The U.S. Army reservist has never missed a Bloomsday and wasn’t about to let a war halfway around the world ruin his record.
“I thought, if I could get my leave then I could keep my streak,” Kenna said.
Kenna was a 13-year-old ninth grader at Bowdish Junior High School when he ran the first Bloomsday in 1977, and he believes he is the second-youngest “perennial,” the term used to define those who have completed every race.
Through the years, “it just turned out I was always able to do it,” said Kenna, 42. “It just became a goal of mine to continue to do them.”
Some years, getting to the starting line was more challenging than others. When Kenna was on active duty at Fort Benning, Ga., he would take a Saturday morning flight to arrive in time for Bloomsday.
But nothing compares to the uncertainty of leaving a combat zone in the Middle East. He’d requested to take a two-week leave so he wouldn’t miss Bloomsday and considered himself lucky when his wish was fulfilled.
“There were no guarantees,” Kenna said.
He visited his colleagues at McDirmid, Mikkelsen & Secrest PS on Friday afternoon, whom he credits for supporting him this year, and then walked with his old running partner, Steve Lee, to the Bloomsday trade show.
“It’s been a lonely running year,” Lee said. “This is probably the only year I have a chance of beating him.”
That’s because Kenna’s schedule in Iraq doesn’t allow for the intense training program he normally follows. He runs at 6 a.m. with other soldiers from his unit, but they can log only a couple of miles. While the weather is mild enough to make exercise bearable, their other duties prevail. Kenna’s unit has two missions: assisting the country’s transitional government and helping its army learn how to function. His duty is with the latter.
Kenna played down the dangers of his role, but his unit has lost one officer, and several fellow soldiers have been wounded.
Choosing his words carefully, Kenna acknowledged the risk the soldiers he trains are taking.
“They’re brave for stepping up and fighting the insurgency,” he said. “It takes a lot of fortitude to go into the Iraqi army.”
Kenna was deployed last August and expects his tour to end in July.
Kenna didn’t choke up or get goose bumps on the way to pick up race bib number 757 and the green singlet all Bloomsday perennials will wear Sunday. It was all very “routine,” he said, and after 29 years, it should be.
But when routine means taking part in a hometown race, with family nearby and friends at your side, it must be a good thing.
“It’s very good to be home,” Kenna said.