To the uninitiated, it may appear that with all the stopwatches, racing bibs and closed streets, Bloomsday is simply a road race.
But those who have participated know better.
“It was a blast, just a big party,” said Maura Toole, who walked the 12-kilometer course for the first time in 2018. “I just loved how the neighborhoods got involved.”
Toole and her wife, Crista Johnson, along with Johnson’s stepfather, Mike Myers, all stopped at the Bloomsday check-in and trade show event Friday afternoon at the Spokane Convention Center, beaming in front of a green-screen background that superimposed stock images of the city’s first true outdoor event of the summer. The couple will be participating in just their second Bloomsday, but seasoned veterans also agreed.
“It’s all the people you get to see,” said John Giampietri, who estimated he has participated in about 30 of the annual races that started in 1977.
“We like it because of the crowd,” said his wife, Debbie, as Giampetri grabbed his 15-month-old grandson, Easton, who was chomping a Franz donut hole. Debbie Giampetri has been participating for even longer, including volunteering in the event’s early years, she said.
As Bloomies gear up for yet another running of Spokane’s famous road race, here are a few things to remember.
Leave your gear in the car, or at home
Backpacks haven’t been allowed on the Bloomsday course for the past several years, according to race organizers and the police. If you must bring a bag, it needs to be clear.
Fanny packs, or small bags around the waist, are OK, said Don Kardong, longtime race director.
Once runners get to their color zones on Riverside Avenue, there’s no place for storage unless you’re racing as a Corporate Cup participant. Show up to the starting line ready to go. If runners need warmups, they can wear them in the starting chute, but anything left behind (including in the trees along Riverside) is donated to charity.
Find a place to park, or catch a ride
Spokane Transit Authority coaches will begin express service to the starting line at 6:20 a.m. This year, there will be five locations for express shuttle service: NorthTown Mall, Spokane Valley Mall, Ferris High School, the Red Barn in Cheney and, new for 2019, the West Plains Transit Center.
The express shuttles will drop passengers off on First Avenue and Howard Street, between Post and Stevens streets. It’s a quick walk from there to the starting line, and return riders will board their coach at the same location. Shuttle service will run on race day until 2 p.m., with regular bus service to follow.
Bloomies can still purchase an STA pass, good for all trips on race day, at the trade show Saturday at the Spokane Convention Center. The cost is $2, and comes as a sticker that can be adhered to the race bib. Those who need a pass on the day of the race will have to pay regular fare, which is $2 per ride. Riders need exact change.
The downtown bus depot will be open Sunday morning, but buses won’t leave from there. The Riverside Avenue entrance will be closed, but the Sprague Avenue entrance will be open for access to restrooms and vendors. Alternative drop-off locations will be available on Howard Street between Second and Fourth avenues.
Parking is available on race day at the Spokane Arena, and at several downtown lots. Be aware that roads near the start of the race will be closed starting at 5 a.m. and won’t reopen until 2 p.m., after the course has closed.
Be prepared for warm weather
After a chilly start to some mornings this week in Spokane, warm weather and clear skies are expected for Bloomsday 2019.
Temperatures Sunday morning are expected to start in the upper 40s and reach the mid-50s by race time at 9. In the afternoon, temperatures will climb to the lower 70s, according to the National Weather Service, with clear skies expected through the afternoon.
Those finishing in the early afternoon may experience some warmer temperatures nearing the finish line, but the thermometer won’t threaten any heat records for the 43rd running of the road race. The warmest Bloomsday races on record were the inaugural running of the race in 1977, when temperatures topped out at 81 degrees, and again in 1980. The average high temperature for May 5 in Spokane is 63 degrees, according to climate data.
It also won’t be the coldest Bloomsday on record. In 1984, race participants woke to several inches of snow on Spokane’s streets.
There’s still time to sign up – or volunteer
Race officials are hoping the mild forecast will attract racers who may be on the fence about lacing up on Sunday. There were about 37,500 pre-registrations for the race, organizers said Friday, which would continue Bloomsday’s decline in popularity that started in 2012.
But several people were using the late registration computers at the trade show, bolstering hopes that race numbers may reach 40,000. One of those late registrants was James McLennan, a Portland resident who has been playing violin for the Spokane Symphony this season and will be in town for a 3 p.m. performance Sunday.
“I’ve heard great things about it,” said McLennan, who said he runs and bikes in road races in Oregon, but this will mark his first Bloomsday. “Everyone says it’s not to be missed.”
Registration for the race is available through Saturday for $45. Race bibs must be collected at the trade show at the Convention Center by 6:15 p.m. Saturday.
For those who don’t want to run or walk, but hope to take part in the Bloomsday festivities, organizers still need volunteers to help hand out T-shirts at the finish line near Spokane City Hall and hand out water to runners near the Greenwood Cemetery on Government Way.
Those interested can sign up on the Bloomsday website, bloomsdayrun.org.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to note that the STA plaza downtown will be open on race day.
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