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

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Jim James: Bloomsday 2018 reflections

James W. Ellison

The glow within me from running this year’s Bloomsday has yet to subside.

And that’s despite recording my slowest time ever. And having more than my share of aches and pains when I rolled this 60+ year-old body out of bed the following morning.

Indeed, that lingering glow is fed by Bloomsday experiences that to me are seemingly unequaled by any other run/walk event in the country.

Because, in spite of the mass of humanity that takes over the city each year, the roots and core and soul of Bloomsday lie within Spokane’s sense of community.

The community feel of Bloomsday is apparent throughout: so many families and groups of friends of all ages; more walkers than runners; all the costumes. The thousands of helpful and smiling volunteers. The rock bands, the evangelists, the accordion player. It is the free donut holes at the Expo; striking up a conversation with the stranger in front of you in the port-a-potty line; the clothing thrown into the trees and onto the fences in the starting chutes. Seeing this year’s Finisher shirt for the first time. And the efficiency of a well-run, well-organized event, including the massive clean-up efforts that are seamlessly orchestrated and immediately put into motion as the last walkers with strollers leave the start line. Truckloads full of port-a-potty, piles of clothing for donation, and what about all those crushed paper cups scattered on the pavement?

It is the embracing of the history and tradition of Bloomsday, from admiring world-class runners and wheelchair athletes to reading about West End resident traditions, “Where are the nuns?” and wheelchair champion Tatyana McFadden and her heartfelt comments about us common folk, seeing the front pages of newspapers printed for the first 11 Bloomsdays.

It is about personal snapshots in time, such as while I was trudging up Cemetery Hill (with Doomsday Hill lurking ahead). A lady close to my age running nearby exclaimed, “These are great practice hills!” To which I replied, “It’s all mental, right? Until it becomes physical!” Her comeback: “And that’s when it really becomes mental!” We both laughed, and then she was on her way.

If I appear to be overly exuberant about Bloomsday – in the face of yet another reduction in the number of participants and finishers – it is due to my “older” age and realization that my PRs are in the rearview mirror that I have become increasingly more aware and appreciative of the warm hospitality of the Spokane community and its residents.

As an out-of-towner, Bloomsday 2018 was my 99th running event over the last 20 years, and I’m here to say that Spokane has something truly remarkable and unique – regardless of whether it’s 56,000 people, 38,000, or even 20,000. The number of run/walk events nationally has exploded in recent years, and people have so many more choices than were available in the 1990s.

So, Spokane, continue to rejoice in Bloomsday and in your community, no matter what the future brings. It’s truly something special.

James W. Ellison

Federal Way, Washington