This time of year, Katrin Pardue likes to pull on her wool socks, fire up the blinkies on each shoe and run up Mount Spokane after work. Or, perhaps less ambitiously, she’ll run around the South Hill, where she lives, and take a tour of its parks: Cannon Hill, Cliff, Manito, Comstock and the Bluffs.
“I try to hit every park,” said Pardue, 19, who runs between 35 and 60 miles a week. She’s preparing for Bloomsday and next fall’s Portland Marathon, but the main reason she runs is simple: She likes it.
She has company. Earlier this month, Spokane was named the Outstanding Runner Friendly Community of the Year by the Road Runners Club of America. The criteria for the award are many – including good running trails, community enthusiasm and government support – but anyone who has ever lived in Spokane already knows about its pavement-pounding reputation.
Beyond Spokane, the word “Bloomsday” either has no meaning for most people or speaks to their refined literary sensibilities. Here, of course, it means a crush of 50,000 people downtown throwing their sweatshirts into the trees of Riverside Avenue while dutifully waiting their turn behind the elite runners, who have likely already sprinted the 12 kilometers and are hanging out at the beer tent.
“I think it’s great. I think it’s appropriate,” said Don Kardong, who founded Bloomsday in 1977. “The development of the trail systems in the last 30 years is probably the one best thing that’s made this a great running town.”
The unpaved trails in Riverside State Park are Kardong’s favorite, but he said the new span of the Centennial Trail in Kendall Yards “is pretty awesome.”
Kardong said the designation “certainly won’t hurt” to increase the visibility of Bloomsday, but he said the May running event probably helped win the award.
“I think that kind of seals the deal, the way the city embraces Bloomsday,” he said, noting that he has talked with RRCA leaders about the event. “They’re sort of blown away how everyone in town knows about it, and how most of them either do it or know somebody who does.”
Besides that first Sunday in May, there are 364 other days to run in Spokane, and countless trails and routes. There are 37 paved miles of the Centennial Trail before it hits the Idaho border and many more miles of spurs shooting off them. There are countless running clubs, the Flying Irish, the all-woman Spokane Swifts and the Manito Running Club, to name a few. The website MapMyRun.com, which allows users to share their routes with others, lists more than 7,000 routes in Spokane.
Of course, there’s also the robust running culture in the region’s high schools, most notably North Central High School, which recently went to the Nike Team Nationals four years in a row. In 2008, the high school team won the national championship.
Vince Hamilton, 22, who graduated from North Central in 2011, runs more than 80 miles a week and is now part of Eastern Washington University’s cross country team, where he also competes in the 5K and 10K events.
“It’s no surprise,” he said about Spokane’s designation as the best running community, mentioning the city’s 2013 nod from Outside Magazine as one of the year’s best towns. “Riverside State Park has many, many miles of trails to run.”
Hamilton also likes to run around the North Side, where he lives, highlighting the trails near Saint George’s School and Indian Painted Rocks.
He avoids running on ice and snow, so when it’s inclement he’ll “just jump on the treadmill.”
Other than that, like many other Spokane runners, nothing stops him from lacing up and elevating his heart rate.
“You have no worries. The pain just goes away,” he said about running. “It’s a calm, blissful feeling.”
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