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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

More than 47,000 soak up Bloomsday experience

By Tom Sowa and Jennifer Pignolet The Spokesman-Review

With added security across the 7.5-mile Spokane Bloomsday course, runners and walkers cruised through a warm and uneventful race marked mostly by dozens of runners being treated for dehydration.

Concern generated by last month’s bombings at the Boston Marathon led to heightened security, but race organizers said the city’s 37th-annual Bloomsday occurred without a hitch.

Race Director Don Kardong said 47,165 participants finished the annual race.

About 60 medical volunteers dealt with more than 50 medical incidents during and after the race, most of which were heat-related.

At start time the temperature was in the mid-50s. By the time many walkers finished after noon, temperatures had risen above 70 degrees.

Beyond overheating and the usual scrapes and twisted ankles, Bloomsday organizers said the race produced no major injuries.

Police and area security agencies were out in force. Before the start of the elite wheelchair division, Homeland Security agents led bomb-detection K-9 units along the start area.

Access to the start area was restricted for the first time, allowing only runners and walkers with race bibs to line up in their race groups.

Spokane police Chief Frank Straub said two helicopters were scheduled to provide additional security but the Sheriff’s Office helicopter had mechanical issues.

A U.S. Border Patrol helicopter flew overhead instead, and crowds of race-watchers along the course were discouraged from holding backpacks.

“People were very cooperative and just really excited about being here and enjoying the day,” Straub said.

Agencies involved with providing security included the FBI, Homeland Security, Border Patrol, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office and the Spokane Police Department.

Straub said the addition of the Spokane SWAT team was new for this year. At least four bomb-sniffing dogs walked the course throughout the day.

“All in all it’s been really great,” the chief said.

The fire department investigated one call regarding a suspicious white substance found in the park. Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said the product was fertilizer.

An accident on Riverside Avenue involving a participant in the wheelchair race delayed the start of the elite men’s race.

Wheelchair race coordinator Bob Murphy said Aaron Gordian, 49, of Mexico City, got a flat tire and spun out on a turn on Riverside Avenue. He was treated by medical personnel at the scene.

The elite race was delayed about five minutes and the runners were allowed to jog about 30 yards down Riverside and return to the starting line while they waited.

Another wheelchair racer complained to Bloomsday staff about safety concerns he had at the finish line.

Murphy said the racer was afraid there would be a crash because they had to quickly funnel into a narrow lane and wheelchairs were getting stuck as they flew across the finish line.

Volunteers widened the lane and started helping wheelchair racers move out of the way after they passed the finish line, Murphy said. The race wasn’t set up this year any differently from previous years, he said, but the concerns will be taken into account when setting up for next year.

“We certainly pay attention to the feedback,” he said. “That athlete did have some genuine concerns.”

Either law enforcement or EMS units were stationed at nearly every intersection along the route.

One runner carried handwritten messages on sticky notes to give to each officer she passed.

“Thank you for your service,” the notes said.

Among the least-appreciated volunteers were the handful of men and women trying to direct runners off the sidewalks of West Riverside. Their goal was to redirect runners who cut around the main body of competitors and then had to dodge people standing on the sidewalks.

Katie Padilla, who’s been a sidewalk volunteer for six years, said this year was worse than last. “I got shoved three or four times by people who just don’t care,” Padilla said.

Heather Johnson, of Spokane, was one of the first sidewalk casualties early Sunday. Starting in the yellow group, Johnson twisted her ankle on a curb about two minutes past Monroe Street. Instead of running, she ended up walking the next few miles.

Higher-than-normal temperatures accounted for the majority of health responses, Schaeffer said.

“This was one of the busiest Bloomsdays for us, in volume of responses,” he said.

Schaeffer did not have the number of medical calls that resulted in hospital visits.