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Then and Now: Bloomsday

Mon., May 7, 2012

Olympians helped inaugurate first race in 1977

The Lilac Bloomsday Run welcomed runners and walkers for the 36th time this year, a long way from its modest start. Encouraged by the mayor and bolstered by sponsors and service organizations, founder Don Kardong, an Olympic marathon runner, led off the first race on May 1, 1977. Olympic gold medalist Frank Shorter won the race, and almost 1,200 runners finished that day. Since then, organizers have found ways to accommodate tens of thousands of participants, providing them with water, T-shirts, accurate timing and medical aid. In 1980, the course was changed to avoid the Maple Street Bridge, which shook when the crowds pounded across it. The revised course took runners up Pettet Drive for the first time. It was immediately nicknamed “Doomsday Hill” for its climb and location on the 7.46-mile course. Participation peaked in 1996 at 61,298 participants. On the Web: Find more historic photos and present-day comparisons at –Jesse Tinsley

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