May 4, 2009 in City

Weather cooperates for festive Bloomsday, big turnout

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Kathy Plonka photo

Three-year-old Lucy Low, of Seattle, was as excited as her uncle Kyle Smith, of Spokane, to see a clown running through Browne’s Addition.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

“Keep moving! Keep moving! Don’t stop!”  ■  Lori Shauvin’s repeated instructions at the Bloomsday finish line pretty much summed up Spokane on Sunday morning: a city in motion.

Some 50,000 participants rolled, ran or walked across the line and onto the Monroe Street Bridge at the end of their 12 kilometers of pavement and hills, music and signs, water cups and unusual food offerings.

The weather for the 33rd running of the race was cloudy, breezy and cool – perfect for the serious and not-so-serious runners. For spectators and participants waiting for the start, however, the day was chilly.

Brooke Dunton, of Coeur d’Alene, and Fran Brastrup, of Hayden, waited on the curb for the race to start, wearing black garbage bags and huddling together for warmth.

“To us, Bloomsday is a great community event more so than a race,” said Dunton, adding they were part of a group of six women who walk the race together.

The weather meant fewer problems with dehydration and overheating. One runner suffered a heart attack near Broadway and Monroe, in the last half mile of the race. A Spokane fire official said the man was clinically dead before paramedics revived him and got him to the hospital. Deaconess Medical Center reported he was in critical but stable condition Sunday evening.

Cool temperatures – in the mid-40s at first starting gun – didn’t seem to deter participants. Close to 52,000 people signed up, and race organizers expect between 48,000 and 50,000 finished the race. If they’re right, it would be the biggest turnout since 1999. They’ll release exact numbers sometime today.

The weather probably kept some spectators away, but others, such as Sherry Nelson, weren’t about to give up on tradition.

Nelson, who lives in the West Central neighborhood, sat in a camp chair bundled in a blanket to watch the cascade of people stream by on Pettet Drive. It wasn’t the coldest first Sunday in May she could remember, “but we always come prepared.”

She said she likes watching the wheelchairs, the growing stream of people moving past, and the costumes.

That stream starts as a trickle and grows to a flood at the finish line at the north end of the Monroe Street Bridge.

Krige Schabort, of Cedartown, Ga., the winner of the elite men’s wheelchair division, was the first drop in the trickle. He turned the corner at Broadway and raced down the hill on Monroe with no one else in sight. Soon, other three-wheeled racing chairs were whizzing by, and Lineth Chepkurui, of Kenya, made the turn and headed down the hill toward the winners’ tape held by Judy and Don Colenso and their daughter, Staci Manos.

The Colensos have volunteered at the finish line for 16 years, and this was their second year with the tape (actually a banner). It’s a great job, Judy Colenso said. They lifted it for the wheelchair winners to go under. But for Chepkurui and John Yuda, of Tanzania, the men’s elite winner, they took turns letting go of one side so the winner could “break” the tape.

Serious runners crossed the finish line and pressed a button on their stopwatches. Less-serious runners crossed the line and raised their fists or hugged their sides. Some who may have wished they’d trained a little harder or ran a little slower crossed and bent over to catch their breath or lose their breakfast.

“Keep moving! Keep moving!” Shauvin told the crowd as it filled the bridge around her.

A volunteer since 1979 and a teacher at Rogers High School, Shauvin waved to passing friends and students as she watched for anyone blocking the flow. “Every high school kid comes up and gives me a sweaty hug.”

Jordan Stewart rushed past, holding aloft a life-size cardboard cutout of a man from the waist up, in a Washington National Guard camouflage uniform. It was his brother, Jared Stewart, currently in Iraq with the local Guard unit.

Jared ran the last six or seven Bloomsdays, but missed this one, Stewart said. Jared’s wife had a couple of the cutouts, which they dubbed “flat daddy,” made when he went to Iraq. The cutouts are around the house and accompany them on car trips, so Stewart borrowed one for the race. He mounted it on a backpack.

“He’s got his own number and his own timing chip. He’s going to get his own T-shirt,” Jordan Stewart said.

Other participants had causes, too. Sheri Spurgeon, of Petaluma, Calif., traveled to Spokane to run Bloomsday even though she has breast cancer and probably at least a year left in chemotherapy.

Her mom, Shirley Whitaker, of Spokane, gathered friends and family to run and walk with her. They mingled before the start, wearing black “Support Sheri” T-shirts. Spurgeon’s black T-shirt sported embroidered angel wings intertwined with the pink breast cancer awareness ribbon.

“Even if I walk, crossing that finish line is going to feel so good,” Spurgeon said, hugging her mom. “I didn’t think I was going to be well enough. The support feels just amazing.”

Both women wiped away tears in the cold morning wind.

Along with water at the stations – cups recyclable to go with the race’s green theme – runners could stop for an occasional snack while food lasted.

A house near August Avenue and Pettet Drive had a sign offering “Free Donuts.” The box full of treats stopped some in their tracks, but caused others to pass, saying “that’s not right.”

When a runner grabbed a donut, Jasen Smith and his friends would cheer. Friends gather at the house for a barbecue and to see how quickly they can give away the donuts. Each guest brings a dozen, Smith said.

On Sunday, it took 30 minutes to go through six dozen, said Smith, who put up another sign that read “Just say no to spandex.”

And there were costumes. Tuxedos and tutus, superheroes and animals, insect antennae and the occasional pig snout, appropriate for a year when swine flu is in the headlines.

Nick Freese wore a crown and a costume best described as medieval, although he claimed to be King Bloomie, not King Arthur. Freese said he has run dressed as Captain America, the Green Lantern and The Flash. He opted for a cooler costume this year, including a lion on his chest and a skirt, which was actually pretty good to run in, he said.

His time was a little slower this year. Not because of the costume; he didn’t train as hard, Freese said. “A few of the women said ‘Nice skirt.’ ”

Tim Moore had a skirt, too. A hula skirt. Walking with his son Daniel Moore, 11, and friend Zach Utzinger, 10, toward their starting spot, Tim Moore said he usually wears a tuxedo for the race “but I decided to go formal” with what he considers the biggest day of the year. It was his 27th Bloomsday.

Daniel, 11, was dressed as Buzz Lightyear for his ninth race. Zach, 10, was Zorro for his first.

“I don’t know how much I’ll be running,” Zach said, swirling his black cape.

Also running her first Bloomsday was Sen. Maria Cantwell, Washington’s junior senator. She doesn’t claim to be a a serious runner – three-mile runs a couple times a week – but “I stepped it up a little bit lately” by running along the National Mall from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial when she could get a break in congressional activity.

“It was great,” she said after crossing the finish line. “The hill was OK; I imagined worse.”

Aid stations had a steady business of blisters and sprains, overheating and dehydration. One runner reported feeling chest pains and stopped at an aid station near Spokane Falls Community College. After a short time he said he wanted to get back on the course. Medical staff persuaded him to call it a day.

Those who finished the race got a light blue shirt with a stream of runners in multicolored silhouettes.

Doug and Carolan Edens, who finished the race with their son Allen, said they were hoping for a light blue shirt this year. They’ve run the past two years, and it’s a nice complement to those shirts, which are dark green and red.

“It’s got a nice springy look to it,” Doug Edens said.

The weather, the crowd and the organization were great, he said. The only problem he could think of was a personal one. The family tries to better their time each year, and this year they crossed the finish line 15 minutes ahead of 2008.

“I looked at the clock and said ‘You’ve really set yourself up for next year,” he said.

Staff writers Pia Hallenberg Christensen and Jody Lawrence-Turner contributed to this report.

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