The Inland Northwest is a virtual treasure-trove of trails and running paths for Bloomies seeking to complete an all-online race, scheduled to begin Friday.
But for many, the pull of the traditional 12-kilometer (7.46-mile) course is strong.
“I would assume there will be lots of people,” said Heather Lefriec, whose women’s running group the Spokane Swifts plans to run the Bloomsday course in small groups between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. Saturday. “Bloomsday’s a big tradition for them, they’re not going to give that easily.”
Cindi John, who has run every Bloomsday except two, also said she plans to run on the course this weekend, though race director Jon Neill said earlier this week the nonprofit hoped runners would find another course because there won’t be traffic control.
John said she will wear a mask, if necessary, due to smoke.
“There will only be five or six of us getting together afterwards,” John, who typically hosts a large gathering at her home after the race, wrote in an email. “One sister flew in from Peoria, Illinois, so that she could keep the tradition alive.
“But Bloomsday is a tradition for our family and we would never consider not doing it,” she continued.
Jamie Redman also planned to run the course with her friends on Saturday. She grew up in Spokane and estimated that she received her first Bloomsday T-shirt at 1 or 2 years old.
“I do get nervous, if people run four or five abreast,” said Redman.
Redman, Lefriec and John were among those diehards who ran the course in May, despite the official event being postponed due to COVID-19. Redman said she believed cars and Bloomies could coexist this weekend.
“If people just run responsibly, I think it can work,” she said.
Race organizers decided earlier this summer to make Bloomsday 2020 a virtual event, and on Wednesday extended the potential race days through Sept. 27 to prevent runners from having to run their selected course in lingering, thick wildfire smoke.
Runners will be on the honor system to complete a 12-kilometer course of their choosing. That won’t be a problem for 83-year-old Grant Smith, a retired Eastern Washington University professor who won his age group in a time of a little less than 1 hour, 14 minutes in 2019.
“I’ll probably find a lonely country road,” said Smith, who lives near Cheney. “I know the mileage. I’ve been doing this for 50 years. I’ve got the mental markers.”
Smith has run every Bloomsday save the first race in 1977. He’s long participated in the Corporate Cup competition and had organized a team for this year, but the challenge has been put on hold until 2021.
Sylvia Quinn, also 83, is one of the 80-some “Perennials” who have competed in every Bloomsday, and one of only a handful who are women. Quinn said she, too, planned to try to run the traditional course, though there will be no traffic control for this year’s race.
“If I do it on the course, I would go early in the morning,” Quinn said. “I certainly wouldn’t wait until 8 or 9 o’clock.”
“At my age, I’m not going to set world records or go to the Olympics or anything,” Quinn continued, adding that she’s observed the social distancing and stay home orders suggested by the government since the pandemic began.
Smith said if the air remained too smoky to run outdoors, he’d complete the virtual race on his treadmill, where he does a lot of his running in the winter.
“I used to run – no matter what – outside,” Smith said. “Now, I’m a little more nervous about falling.”
Bloomsday will be a low-key but familiar walk for South Hill resident Jeannie Corkill. She plans to walk a 7.46-mile course in the Qualchan area that the Bloomsday Road Runners Club uses for races in November.
“I walk it all the time. I’m familiar with the route,” Corkill said. “It’ll be very different, though.”
Lefriec is seeking a bit of normalcy in her running, even with so much change due to the pandemic and smoke. That includes picking up another finisher T-shirt.
“I’ve done it 25 years in a row,” she said. “I’m not about to not get the shirt this year.”
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