A clear, blue sky appeared from out of the blue Sunday, giving nearly 57,000 people crowded into downtown Spokane for the 35th annual Bloomsday race another reason to cheer.
For the rain- and winter-weary crowd, the idyllic spring conditions were a welcome change.
“I said yesterday, ‘If it’s raining, I’m not doing it,’ ” said Mirnesa Cosic, 25, who was walking the race with a group of about 20 people.
After last week’s unpredictable mix of weather, the sunshine helped draw a larger-than-expected crowd. The Lilac Bloomsday Association said there were 56,652 participants registered for the race, up 3 percent from last year. The number of race finishers was 51,260, up from last year’s 45,621.
“It’s perfect,” said Kelly Fletcher, 52, of Rock Springs, Wy. “It’s like they planned it.”
Joelie Eliason, part of the stroller division, had no trouble expressing her enthusiasm: “It’s the best one ever.” Her family had just parked their car and had made their way to the starting line around 10:30 a.m. With her were her husband, Andy, and two children, Tayla, 5, and Gavin, 3.
The couple said it was their sixth year in a row participating in the event.
Another family, mostly first-timers, cruised the course in lime-green T-shirts reading “Will run for Serene’s birthday.”
Seattle resident Serene Fisher had decided she wanted to do Bloomsday for her 13th birthday. Family members from Seattle, Kennewick and Coeur d’Alene showed up to make it happen.
“We’re definitely coming back,” aunt Shawn Fisher said.
Spirits were high before the race as well. Participants laughed, smiled and checked out their fellow participants’ outfits.
Corbin Breithaupt, 14, sported a pink wig.
“I wanted people to see me,” he said. It was his first Bloomsday.
Walkers Eileen Codd and Sheila LaDuc started the race wearing fairy wings and tutus.
“Since we’re not running this year we’re going to have fun with this and look silly,” LaDuc said. She added that she was serenaded while she was standing next to a Honey Bucket. “It was romantic.”
Meanwhile, the butter-yellow T-shirts distributed after the course’s finish line seemed to be well-received. Many runners liked the design but hoped for a different color.
“I wish it was a brighter yellow,” said Adrienne Fischer, 30.
“I think it’s a cool shirt,” said her cousin, Amber Bajema, 31, a first-time runner from Boise.
Twins Zoe and Alex Moritz, 14, ran the race with their sister, Michele, 17.
“My mom signed us up,” Alex said.
Many people approached Colby Aitcheson, 12, and said, “I found you,” probably because he was dressed as Waldo.
“A lot of people were yelling my name,” he said.
Spectators kept themselves entertained – and busy.
At Christ the Redeemer Church, located along the course at 1524 W. Broadway, parishioner Jason Wiens waved a sign promoting free drinks and hot dogs.
The church gave away all 2,000 hot dogs it ordered last year, so this year it had 3,000 ready to distribute to racers.
Farther up the course, on Summit Boulevard, Trent Holmes and Jack Bacon were manning a lemonade stand that sister Mattie Bacon built into a $100 business over seven years.
How do you get there on 25 cents a cup?
Your patrons hand you $5 bills and don’t wait around for the change.
Runners were also grabbing ice cream sandwiches offered for $1.50 at the top of Doomsday Hill.
Bill Mortenson watched it all from a folding chair across Pettit Drive.
A former runner on the Kaiser-Mead corporate cup team, Mortenson said he gets a thrill seeing the runners go by.
Two years ago, he said, he made the mistake of attending the Bloomsday trade show. He talked himself into a last-minute entry.
“I got caught up in the moment,” Mortenson said.
He finished the race, but with two blisters emergency medical technicians told him were among the worst they had ever seen.
“I have to stay within myself,” Mortenson said.
Vietnam War veteran Seth Sundin carried an American flag attached to PVC pipe around the course, sometimes spelled by his son Kyle.
Sundin said he has finished Bloomsday many times, but this one was different. He had knee-replacement surgery 10 months ago.
“We’re testing it out today,” he said. “Guess what? It still works.”
As the elite runners got ready for the starting gun, 74-year-old Bart Haggin was gunning for another top finish in his age group.
“I work at this,” he said, adding that he was looking forward to next year’s race already.
“New age group!” he said.
Greg Lang was among those manning a first-aid station on Broadway.
He moved to Spokane from Colorado Springs a few months ago to enroll in the University of Washington physician assistant program.
“I know Spokane is very, very proud of this,” said Lang, who likened the race to the popular Bolder Boulder 10-kilometer race that also attracts more than 50,000 entrants.
Watching as the early finishers chugged down Broadway, Lang said, “You get kind of mesmerized.
“I guess you could stand here for hours and not get bored.”