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Bloomsday 2012: An uplifting day for nearly 48,000

It happens a lot: Crummy weather turns into beautiful skies on Bloomsday.

Spokane’s annual salute to spring and fitness ran true to script Sunday. Nearly 48,000 people finished the 36th Lilac Bloomsday Run, enjoying temperatures in the mid-40s at the start of the race that rose to nearly 60 by the time most of them crossed the finish line.

“It couldn’t be better; everything’s been great,” said Aurora Perez, of Spokane, who waited a few hundred yards from the start for her sons, 14 and 15, to run past.

The runners were cheered by thousands of onlookers and dozens of bands playing everything from lounge tunes to bell-choir sonatas.

“These boys love playing loud and outside, especially when the neighbors won’t yell at them,” Rene Rahn said. Her 14-year-old son, Wilson Rahn, is lead guitarist for the band Black Gingham, which played at the eastern edge of Browne’s Addition.

Event organizers said they had few serious medical reports. One runner needed CPR near Doomsday Hill, medical volunteers said. That runner was taken to a hospital for observation, they said.

Two elite women runners were given first aid at the finish line, volunteer Pam Bates said. One was treated for exhaustion, the other for a severe leg cramp.

By 2 p.m. Sunday, staff in the medical tent at the end of the race had treated about 22 cases of injuries, dehydration, muscle cramps and scrapes. Good weather kept the number of cases of dehydration to a minimum, Bates said.

Bloomsday Race Director Don Kardong said the annual event enjoys a charmed life. Rain has not fallen on race day since 2003, and that was just a drizzle. It’s been about a decade since the memorable Bloomsday when rain and snow pellets fell early in the race.

More than 53,000 people signed up this year, Kardong said. A final tally showed 47,882 finishers of the 7.46-mile course that starts and ends downtown. That’s down from last year’s 51,260 finishers but more than the 45,620 who finished in 2010. Many Bloomies, like San Jose, Calif., resident Joseph Jolly, have been participating for years.

Jolly, 50, makes an annual pilgrimage to Spokane for the event, the largest timed race in the United States. “I had to stop running about five years ago. Now I’m just walking,” he said.

Among the finishers was 92-year-old Spokane resident Vincent Slatt, who walked with 18 relatives.

“I had to miss two races in the past 15 years,” Slatt said after the race. “Once to have my knees replaced. A second time, to get a hip replaced.”

Slatt officially was the oldest Bloomie last year, said his granddaughter, Irene Slatt. It wasn’t known Sunday whether anyone older had registered this year.

A block from the home where she’s lived for 38 years, Barbara Greer sat cheering her 54-year-old son, Hank Greer, who runs barefoot.

“He’s cut his foot once; that’s the only injury he’s ever gotten,” Greer said.

Meanwhile, 17-year Bloomsday veteran Tom Cannon, of Seattle, said the race helps him keep track of friends who moved from Seattle to Deer Park years ago. Each year is like a reunion, Cannon said.

“I wouldn’t be able keep in touch with these friends if it wasn’t for Bloomsday,” he said.

Bart Haggin collected his 35th finisher’s T-shirt, having completed every Bloomsday except the very first one, in 1977.

Haggin, who once ran for Congress, was treated for scrapes and bruises after bouncing off a metal side fence about 10 feet from the finish line. He finished the race in 66 minutes, which might have satisfied most 75-year-olds, but not this retired Rogers High School teacher and coach.

“I was hoping for about 62 minutes,” he said.

Dean Haagenson, George Davidson and Lawrence Peterson were among the few Bloomies who have competed every year since the race began.

“When the race started I was already doing a lot of running, so I gave it a shot,” said Haagenson, 70. “I had a lot of fun, so I did it the next year, and pretty soon I had a string going.”

Rich Hobson, a medical station volunteer, said muscle strains and other runner injuries tend to occur most often for those finishing between 50 minutes and 1:15. Many of those mid-level participants aren’t as fit as they think, Hobson said, and they tend to push themselves hard, trying for a personal best time or to beat friends.

About 60 volunteers from the Spokane Fire Fighters Union, Local 29, kept runners hydrated on the homestretch at Broadway Avenue at Nettleton Street. Among the volunteers: 84-year-old Shirley Schoenlieber, who ran the race for 17 years before becoming a volunteer five years ago.

Just down the road, at Cochran Street and Broadway, Kay Howard sprayed down runners with the hose at her auto body shop, as she’s done since 2001.

“I hear a lot of people tell me ‘You’re the best,’ and I get a lot of ‘I love you’s,” Howard said. “It’s the one time I can get a bunch of people wet and not get in any trouble.”