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Sunday, September 27, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Bloomsday officials extend race dates due to poor air quality

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 16, 2020

Marilyn McManus, left, wears PPE gear as she prepares water for incoming Spokane Swifts runners, from left, Corrina Kelsey, Phaedra Branom, Lora Jackson and Jodi Suter at the top of Doomsday Hill on May 3 in Spokane. Despite 2020’s Bloomsday being postponed due to COVID-19, runners still took to the course on the usually scheduled date.  (TYLER TJOMSLAND)
Marilyn McManus, left, wears PPE gear as she prepares water for incoming Spokane Swifts runners, from left, Corrina Kelsey, Phaedra Branom, Lora Jackson and Jodi Suter at the top of Doomsday Hill on May 3 in Spokane. Despite 2020’s Bloomsday being postponed due to COVID-19, runners still took to the course on the usually scheduled date. (TYLER TJOMSLAND)

With smoke from the Pacific Coast wildfires wrecking havoc on the region’s air quality and casting the area under a pall of hazy smoke, Bloomsday officials announced on Tuesday they have extended the deadline for area runners to participate in “Virtual Bloomsday.”

Bloomies now have until Sept. 27 to complete a 7.46-mile course.

Virtual Bloomsday was planned for Sept. 18-20, rescheduled from May 3 due to COVID-19 concerns.

Bloomsday race director Jon Neill said organizers “wanted to make sure all our bases were covered” with regard to safety for event.

“Our goal is to have as many people as possible participate and to make sure everyone that participates stays safe and healthy,” he said.

“When we saw over the weekend how bad it was and as we broke records for the poor air quality, the last thing we wanted to do was to promote people out huffing and puffing and trying to run or walk their 7.46 miles when the air was unsafe.”

Hazardous air conditions from area wildfires have made it dangerous to exercise outdoors throughout the Pacific Northwest. Those conditions could continue through the weekend.

“The safety and health of our participants has always been our top priority,” Neill said. “While we would love to have a traditional weekend of Bloomsday running and walking, it is most important that the air be safe for outdoor exercise.”

Virtual Bloomsday is an event that allows 2020 Bloomsday entrants to earn their coveted race finisher shirt. Participants run or walk any 7.46-mile course of their choosing and report their finish time on the Bloomsday website. Bloomsday will then mail the finisher T-shirt.

For an organization largely fueled by volunteers, mailing out thousands of shirts will be the “most ambitious undertaking in Bloomsday history,” Neill said in July, when the decision was made to move to a virtual race.

When they pushed back the original May date, race leaders laid out goals to accomplish in 2020. At the top of the list, Neill said, was the finisher T-shirt.

“It’s something that is very important to the community,” Neill said. “It’s that badge of honor, and similarly, it’s that show of community spirit that more than ever we all need.”

Virtual Bloomsday runners impacted by smoky conditions are urged to complete their selected course when air quality has returned to a healthy level.

Almost 25,000 people have signed up for Virtual Bloomsday. Neil said approximately 16,000 were registered by July for the in-person race organizers hoped to run in late September. The event has added roughly 8,700 participants since the decision to go virtual.

“It’s extraordinary,” Neill said of the increase in participants. “It really exceeded the organizers’ expectations to add so many runners once we announced the virtual portion. It really was wonderful, and something we really celebrated.

“It just speaks to how near and dear to the heart Bloomsday is to our participants and how much it means to our community.”

More details may be found at www.bloomsdayrun.org.

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