David Greig can summarize the Lilac Bloomsday Run in three words.
Unique. Challenging. Rewarding.
Bloomsday returns Sunday with in-person racing for the first time since 2019. The race begins with elite runners at 9 a.m. on Riverside Avenue downtown, and the 7.46-mile course proceeds west before looping north and east over the Spokane River and finishing at the Monroe Street Bridge.
“There is a legend out there for this race that it’s a tough one,” said Greig, the competitive wheelchair athlete coordinator for Bloomsday. “Just bear down and finish it, and (obtain) that sense of accomplishment. And then there’s the sense of collegiality and the fraternity of people who’ve done this race, and that’s super cool.
“Like I can talk about Bloomsday anywhere in the world, and there’s racers who have heard about it who want to come to experience it.”
Bloomsday was conducted in a virtual form the past two years because of the coronavirus pandemic. Runners were awarded a T-shirt if they registered for the event and completed a run of equal length anywhere in the world.
Race director Jon Neill said organizers are maintaining a “hybrid” format to allow runners to participate in Bloomsday even if they can’t make it to Spokane.
The race will feature more than 23,000 runners, Neill said, and another 5,000 running virtual races in locales around the globe.
“When you look at the participation of the entrants … you literally have the world’s fastest athletes converging on Spokane,” Neill said. “Then you’ve got the sub-elites, the weekend warriors, folks focused on cracking an hour. Then you move into families and young families with strollers and walkers. That’s the appeal of Bloomsday.
“It’s not just a race where everyone’s leaning at the finish line to get the very best time. We have that component, but as you move through the field you get all these different and great walks of life. That’s part of the embrace of Bloomsday.”
Andy Le Friec, Bloomsday’s elite athlete coordinator, said the race signals the start of spring for many people in Spokane. He said racers of all skill levels appreciate running the same course as the professionals.
“People want to be on the same starting line as the elites in the sport,” Le Friec said.
Two-time Bloomsday winner Allan Kiprono (2012, 2014) and fellow Kenyan Amanuel Mesel will be pushed by top Americans Diego Estrada and Reid Buchanan. Le Friec said the men’s field could feature a surprise winner.
Greig said the course is demanding because of its topography, particularly for the wheelchair racers. He noted the descent down Riverside Avenue to where it crosses Latah Creek, as well as the challenge of transitioning from T.J. Meenach Drive to Pettet Drive before climbing Doomsday Hill.
“It’s a roller coaster,” he said. “The downhills are wicked fast for wheelchair racers.”
In the men’s wheelchair division, 2019 winner Aaron Pike and 2018 champion Daniel Romanchuk are slated to compete.
Tekoa, Washington, native Susannah Scaroni is seeking her fifth title in the women’s wheelchair race, which features its largest field since 1998. Scaroni, fresh off a second-place finish at the Boston Marathon on April 18, set a course record of 29 minutes, 58 seconds at Bloomsday in 2019.
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