April 28, 2014 in Features

Bloomsday, boomers are made for each other

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Bloomsday would seem to be the perfect fit for the baby boom generation that prides itself on staying fit, playing outdoors and socializing with friends.

Age isn’t slowing these “senior” walkers and runners down, with nearly 11 percent – or 4,367 – of the 46,915 finishers last year born between 1946 and 1964.

In fact, the top 25 finishers in the men’s divisions ran Bloomsday 2013 in less than an hour until the 65-69 age bracket, when only the top four finishers ran it in under an hour.

For the women’s divisions, the top 17 finishers in the 50-54 age bracket ran it in less than an hour and the top four in the 55-59 bracket. For the 60-64 age division, only the top finisher finished in under an hour.

Race director Don Kardong hasn’t yet calculated how many boomers have signed up for Sunday’s 7.46-mile (12-kilometer) race, but he expects a large and steady showing.

It doesn’t seem surprising today to see so many “seniors” in the race, but that wasn’t true when the internationally acclaimed foot race started in 1977.

By 1988, about 7 percent of the 53,127 runners were between ages 50-69. There were only 215 participants 70 and older. Last year there were 528, including 62 people in their 80s and five in their 90s.

“It was pretty unusual for Bloomsday to have much participation by runners or walkers beyond age 60,” Kardong wrote in an email interview. “But over the years our numbers in the older age groups have continued to grow, and now we almost always have entrants in the 80s and even the 90s.”

Laurence Morse of Spokane is upset that a slip at a water station slowed his time last year because he had to make a pit stop at the medical tent.

“I told them I think I can still finish this thing,” Morse said.

The attendants weren’t sure, but the 92-year-old Morse convinced them otherwise. He finished in two hours, 16 minutes and 16 seconds, placing him second in his 90+ age division. The winner beat him by 5 minutes, 25 seconds.

This year, Morse is looking forward to his 12th Bloomsday, joined by family coming from Pennsylvania and Colorado. He hopes there are more than four men in his age division.

Always active, he never considered walking Bloomsday until the wellness director at Rockwood South Hill Retirement Community encouraged residents to participate.

For 12 years, Brenda Jurich, 54, has driven the facility van full of about a dozen residents and their families. She helps them to their starting point and then walks the race at her own pace. Healing from a broken arm and a stressed knee, Jurich isn’t sure of her time this year. But with this crowd of friends, the boomer can’t complain.

Rockwood resident Joanne King, 76, also walks the race with a friend. Yet she doesn’t ride the van because she has to get back up the South Hill for her bridge game at 1 p.m.

“I just consider it a challenge to keep my steady pace going,” said King, who spends three-days a week in April golfing the hills of Indian Canyon Golf Course to get in shape for Doomsday Hill.

“Now I think Doomsday Hill is so easy,” she said.

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