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Thursday, May 23, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports

Grip on Sports: Bloomsday’s numbers continue to fall, but the trend should bottom out soon

Members of the Angela Marie Project, from left, Angela Marie, drummer Christopher Kohut and bass player Kat Hall, entertain the mass of participants passing by on Fort George Wright Drive, Sunday, May 5, 2019, at Bloomsday 2019. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Members of the Angela Marie Project, from left, Angela Marie, drummer Christopher Kohut and bass player Kat Hall, entertain the mass of participants passing by on Fort George Wright Drive, Sunday, May 5, 2019, at Bloomsday 2019. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • All things must pass. It’s a lesson learned young in life, in many ways, as varied as when your favorite jeans ripped in homeroom as you bend for a pencil or the time a moving van arrived down the street. Once was, is no longer. Change hits. It seems the inevitable is happening to our favorite local running event.

••••••••••

• Bloomsday has been a Spokane institution almost as long as Riverfront Park. The old Riverfront Park, not the new one that is slowly emerging down by the river.

Don Kardong’s idea took flight in 1977, just a few years after the World’s Fair site became our downtown jewel. His run intertwined itself with the park right off, and has been one of downtown’s most beloved events since the running crowd became big enough to boost downtown businesses’ coffers more than it caused headaches.

That was probably around 1984, when for the first time the number of race finishers topped 30,000.

It wasn’t until 1988 that Bloomsday stopped growing at a incredible rate, but that two-year slide was just a blip and the run continued to attract more than 50,000 people until hitting a record 56,156 finishers in 1996.

Since that 20th annual run, the number of finishers has slowly slid, dropping down around 40,000, rising again, and now, seemingly, in a slow decline that isn’t stopping.

According to race officials, 35,233 folks finished Sunday, the lowest total since the previously cited 1984.

And it makes one wonder if Bloomsday is becoming another tradition, like dating and baseball, killed by millennials. … Just kidding. Don't take out the Twitter pitchforks and torches. It’s not an age thing.

Exercise fads come and go. For a while everyone wants to run. Then it’s ride a bicycle. Or play tennis. Or some new form of Antarctic-inspired stretching that features ice cubes in odd spots.

Running booms have come and gone as well. Bloomsday began by riding the one keyed by U.S. success in the 1972 and 1976 Olympics. Heck, Kardong was part of that success.

For years it seemed as if it would never stop growing. Then came the “no-one-every-goes-there-because-it-is-too-crowded” backlash. The run outlasted even that, as well as many way-too-cold mornings and too many double-wide strollers.

But this new trend seems different. Yes it’s been cool this spring, and that has a tendency to discourage training habits of the average Joseph and Josephine – though Sunday couldn’t have been nicer. There seems to be more to it than a cool spring, though, something deeper, less simple to excise. Running Bloomsday doesn’t hold the street cred it once did.

The “why” behind that isn’t easy to discern.

We know trends don’t continually rise. We see it all the time in the stock market, the housing industry, in every form of human interaction. It may be it is just Bloomsday’s time to settle.

Will it settle so low as to become immaterial? After all, since its peak 20-plus years ago, the number of finishers has plummeted about the population of Moses Lake. That’s significant. It makes one wonder if the race is still significant as well.

Sure. It’s not the same as it was back in the day but what is?

Things change, for better or for worse. Nothing is immune. As long as there are volunteers willing to organize the run, as long as there are people willing to put on their Nikes in the morning, as long as the finisher T-shirt is still a prized commodity, Bloomsday will endure.

It’s size and scope may be diminished – all things must pass, remember? – it will still be a part of Spokane’s fabric. And who knows. Maybe the next running boom is just around the corner.

Let’s jog over there to find out.

•••

WSU: Two Cougars (CJ Elleby and Robert Franks) along with a Zag (Josh Perkins) have been invited to the upcoming NBA G League Elite Camp. Theo Lawson has more in this story. … The baseball team won the season series with Gonzaga, clinching with a 9-5 win last night. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, there is basketball news from Arizona and Utah. And there is football news from USC. That is all.

Gonzaga: Former GU pitcher Wyatt Mills is making a name for himself in the Mariners’ system. … Larry Weir asked some questions yesterday, including one about the newest Zag, Admon Gilder, as part of the Press Box pod.

Preps: The playoffs continued yesterday and we have a roundup of baseball action. … We also have a story on a Lewis and Clark softball pitcher.

Mariners: Just when it looked as if Felix Hernandez had turned a corner, the Yankees pound three home runs and knock the veteran around in a 7-3 win. … Not even his personal catcher could save him. … Mallex Smith is trying to get his hitting figured out outside of Seattle. … Gene Warnick has the usual Out of Right Field summary.

Seahawks: Everyone expects Seattle to make a couple signings when the NFL calendar makes it easier on a teams’ draft outlook. … The Hawks may have found a needed third-down running back during rookie mini-camp. … Bobby Wagner, superhero.

•••       

• My running days are over. So are my jogging days. A couple of balky joints have seen to that. Walking, that’s my favorite pastime now. Not just going from here to there, which is nice, but just, you know, moving. Get up, go at least 10 minutes every hour. It becomes addictive. And it helps keeps me somewhat fit. Bloomsday would seem to be perfect. But there’s that whole crowd thing. And port-a-potties. Maybe next year. Until later …

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