One of Spokane’s signature spring events will make its return Sunday as thousands of runners pack the streets for the first time in three years for the 46th running of Bloomsday.
“There’s been a good buzz of activity around here at Bloomsday headquarters and everyone is eagerly doing the countdown dance in readiness for race day,” race director Jon Neill said.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused the 7.46-mile run to be virtual the last two years.
Neill said 25,000 people had registered by early this week for this year’s event, including a little more than 20,000 in-person runners and almost 5,000 virtual participants.
He said the number of combined in-person and virtual runners is on pace for the average turnout of 35,000 to 42,000 participants. Neill said 8,000 to 12,000 people typically register in the final week before the Sunday run.
It appears in-person runners will be fewer than normal barring a late registration surge. The dip in participation would be consistent with events, particularly road races, across the country and world, he said.
Neill said he doesn’t stress much over the numbers and is instead focused on putting on a quality event.
“We’re thrilled with 20,000 (in-person registrants),” Neill said. “It’s a great figure. We know that we’ll get more over the next several days, especially as temperatures climb and hopefully the sunshine comes out. So it’s something where we could have a big crowd of the variety that we are accustomed to at Bloomsday.”
He said many volunteers have been involved in Bloomsday for 30 or 40 years, and it’s second nature come springtime for them to start preparing for the event.
“Without that for the last two years, there’s been something missing,” Neill said.
Patti Bailey has been volunteering since 1987. She said Bloomsday volunteers are “like a gigantic family,” which has kept her coming back to help out each year.
Bailey said it’s a celebration for runners to be back on the streets again.
“This is the way it should be,” she said.
Bailey said she is in charge of distributing race bibs to runners at the Spokane Convention Center.
“I’m a volunteer with a lot of responsibility but I love it, you know?” she said. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Don Kardong, Bloomsday founder, said Bloomsday has not been the same in the virtual format.
“It was better than nothing, but it’s just great to have that whole standard Bloomsday experience back,” he said.
Bloomsday has been held in almost every kind of weather, from hot temperatures to snowy conditions in 1984, Kardong noted.
“We can do it no matter what, but it’s much better when we get a good sunny day that’s not too hot and it looks like that’s what we’ll have,” Kardong said.
Neill said runners and their friends and family members cheering them on can expect the same bells and whistles as past events, including lively entertainment, Bill Robinson dressed in a vulture costume slapping high fives to runners on Doomsday Hill and the finish on the Monroe Street bridge in the mist of the waterfalls.
One difference Neill said is that Bloomsday is using a new timing company called Sportstats with which runners can utilize an app that keeps track of their pace as well as their family and friends’ paces every mile.
“We’re really excited that at one point and time we were pioneers for timing and now to be able to introduce a fun tech piece like that to our participants just means a lot,” Neill said.
People can sign up for Bloomsday at bloomsdayrun.org. The entry fee is $35 through Thursday and then it increases to $50 Friday and Saturday.
Race bibs must be picked up Friday and Saturday at the Spokane Convention Center. Neill said runners can register those two days at the Convention Center as well.
Virtual participants will complete the 7.46-mile run on any course from anywhere Thursday through May 8. Register online by May 8 for $35 plus shipping.
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