When Lucille Olin turned 80, her doctor advised her to stop running.
She obliged, making that year her last Bloomsday run.
Eighteen years later, she was scheduled to make one last trip as a spectator to this Sunday’s race, but a doctor again put on the brakes.
Olin’s granddaughter, 25-year-old Stacy Spelman, nominated her grandmother as this year’s celebrity starter. The almost-98-year-old lifelong Spokane resident was chosen to wave the starting flag for each of Sunday’s races. A hospital stay this week has sidelined those plans.
“It’s one of those things that happens,” Olin said from her hospital room Wednesday.
Bloomsday Board President Steven Jones said Bill Iffrig, the Lake Stevens, Wash., runner who was nearly at the finish line of the Boston Marathon when the first of two homemade bombs exploded, will take over Olin’s flag-waving duties at the start of each race.
The flag, which is given every year to the celebrity starter, will still be given to Olin and her family, Jones said.
Olin ran in at least a dozen Bloomsday races, all after the age of 65. She placed in the top 10 in her age group eight times, and placed second in the 70-79 age group in 1989.
Spelman, who lives in Western Washington, said her family is still planning to make Olin the center of attention Sunday.
She told her grandmother the whole family – Olin’s two sons, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren – will take her to breakfast Sunday morning.
Olin joked, “I think I’ll leave town.”
Post-Bloomsday breakfast was a tradition for Olin and her husband, who died in 2003. After he watched her run, they would eat at Casey’s restaurant on Monroe Street.
Olin started running for fun in the 1970s.
“I just decided I wanted to,” she said. “I started with three girls, and they quit. I decided to carry on.”
Olin ran in other races, including the Priest Lake Fun Run. She said Bloomsday was probably her favorite.
“I just thought it was a good accomplishment,” she said.
She gave a friend all of her Bloomsday shirts, and they were turned into a quilt with her favorite colors, pink, purple and turquoise.
Her family called her an inspiration, even more so for her humility.
“She is by far just the most remarkable person,” her granddaughter said.
Spelman asked her grandmother if she had any advice for this year’s runners.
“If you’ve got the gumption to do it, then do it,” Olin said. “Why not?”