The 12-kilometer Bloomsday 2011 run is history and so is Ginny Warden’s 34-year streak as a finisher.
“It had to end sometime, and 91 seemed like the right age to call it quits,” she said Tuesday.
Warden has been a member of the dwindling “Perennials” who have finished every Bloomsday.
Of the 1,197 runners who crossed the first-race finish line behind Frank Shorter in 1977, only 104 can still claim to be Perennials after Sunday’s event.
That’s an exclusive group considering the race has attracted up to 61,298 entries in the peak year of 1996.
But Warden is resigned to being a member no longer.
She was at the Saturday luncheon Bloomsday officials host for Perennials every five years. “It made me feel better to see all the fellas had gray hair,” she said. “I remember when they all were so young.
“I signed up and started, but I didn’t finish this year. I never intended to.”
She said she might have finished another few years of Bloomsdays “if all those years of downhill skiing hadn’t wrecked up my knees.”
Warden started running at the age of 56 after her husband goaded her into entering the first Bloomsday. She’s never lost her stride for fitness and the outdoors.
Following are highlights from an interview with the former skiing fanatic and remarkable character.
How did you end your Perennials streak?
“I started with my group of friends but got out of the race at the Cathedral and walked over to the Spokane Club.
That’s the way I’d planned it.”
How did you train for the first Bloomsday in 1977?
“I didn’t. I wasn’t a runner, but I was young, so I didn’t need to train.
I was only 56, but I think I was the oldest woman.”
What were you feeling in that first race?
“I remember I never looked back. I didn’t want to know if I was the last person, and I wasn’t sure I could finish.
It was very hot. At the end, a lot of runners were collapsing from heat exhaustion, but I didn’t fall down once.”
What made you keep doing Bloomsday?
“When the next time came around, I just did it again and again. Then they started having all of these fun runs. Every month there was a couple – for the symphony or a charity or a school. More women were running. I did them all.
I started running more and more for fitness and to get different T-shirts. I have a big box of T-shirts.
But my favorite was Bloomsday. I had some issues a few years, like a broken arm and things like that, but nothing kept me from entering Bloomsday.”
What was so special about Bloomsday?
“I loved the fact there were so many people and everybody was so happy and sometimes it snowed and sometimes it was beautiful like this year, but people always came and ran.”
Other than Bloomsday, what’s your favorite race or T-shirt?
“Probably the Bare Buns Fun Run. I did it a few times with friends who were in Sylvia Quinn’s running class at the YWCA.”
Were you embarrassed to run at a nudist resort?
“I wasn’t naked like all of those young people. After all, I was about 60. But I wore my shortest shorts and skimpiest top.
“Didn’t you ever do it?”
How has your pace changed?
“I was never very fast. My best time was only about an hour and a half.
I have a lot of ribbons and medals from Bloomsday, but it’s only because I was old, not because I was fast. Last year they opened a new age group for 90 and over. There were two of us.
The last 15 years, I’ve just been walking. I finished Bloomsday 2010 at the age of 90 and I was tired, but I felt fine. That was my goal. “
How did it feel when you dropped out Sunday?
“I was very sad. I did the Bloomsday training class they have out at the community college. That’s harder than Bloomsday itself. But the longest I did was 6 miles. I knew this was the year.
I felt funny to pull out. But it was interesting to stay and watch all of those people go by. I never realized all these years how people just keep going by and by.
And the next day I saw people all over wearing their Bloomsday T-shirts. They were very proud, just like I always was.
I will always be a supporter.”
Can I make an appointment to snap a picture of you?
“Oh, I don’t look like I used to. I’m a lot older. … OK, OK. I’ll be at the Spokane Club for my fitness class tomorrow morning at 9:30. I’ll wear my 2010 Bloomsday shirt.”
Contact Rich Landers at 459-5508 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.