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A Whole Lotta Bloomies

Published by Steve Campion. Category: Sports & Recreation

This Sunday, about 50,000 men, women, and children will crowd the streets of downtown Spokane for the 36th annual Bloomsday Run, a 12K event that attracts average Joes from all over the Northwest and Olympic-level runners from around the world.  For the elite runners, it offers top-notch competition.  For fit amateurs it’s a challenge to achieve a personal best.  Other Bloomies simply enjoy the happy stroll through the neighborhoods surrounding the Spokane River, the cheering crowds lining the streets, and the accomplishment of finishing an ever-popular 12K.

Bloomsday has many traditions, including Doomsday Hill, a vulture, a secretive finishers-only T-shirt, and plenty of music. But the most obvious tradition is the huge turnout.  Participation grew like crazy during the first ten years and has more or less stayed constant ever since.  It’s like an entire city in motion.  If last year’s Bloomsday finishers were their own city, they would be the 22nd largest in the state — larger than Kirkland or Richland.  The run draws more than twice the runners of any other race in the state and is consistently one of the three largest timed races anywhere in the United States.

A remarkable total of 1,638,028 official finishes have been logged over 40 years. That’s an average of 40,951 per race.  The largest crowd of Bloomies (56,156) ran the distance in 1996, the twentieth year; the smallest was in the inaugural race of 1977 which was won Olympic marathon gold medalist Frank Shorter.  Of the 1,198 original runners, 146 (12%) have gone on to finish every subsequent Bloomsday over the next 34 years (and 92 continued through the 40th running)!  Eleven of them — including race founder Don Kardong — ran the 2011 race in less than an hour.

This year’s run will certainly draw another huge crowd.  The real mystery: what color is the shirt?

NUMBER OF FINISHERS IN SPOKANE’S BLOOMSDAY RUN, 1977-2011 (Updated through 2016 in May, 2016)

Year Finishers Year Finishers Year Finishers Year Finishers
1977 1,198 1987 50,946 1997 49,467 2007 40,341
1978 5,024 1988 53,155 1998 48,453 2008 43,629
1979 10,070 1989 52,457 1999 47,215 2009 45,621
1980 11,962 1990 51,122 2000 45,538 2010 50,661
1981 15,546 1991 55,794 2001 45,346 2011 51,260
1982 20,540 1992 53,303 2002 45,775  2012  47,882
1983 25,932 1993 53,206 2003 40,027  2013  47,165
1984 30,463 1994 55,195 2004 39,695  2014  44,626
1985 37,736 1995 54,154 2005 39,941  2015  42,986
1986 45,541 1996 56,156 2006 40,630  2016  42,270

*Roughly 50,000 finishers at the Peachtree Road Race (Atlanta, GA) and the Boulder Boulder (Boulder, CO).  The Bay to Breakers (San Francisco, CA) often attracts greater numbers of starters (and the same winners as Bloomsday!), but not as many finishers.

PHOTO & CHART © Steve Campion

SOURCE: Finishers totals derived from The Pacific Northwest Inlander “2011 Results Booklet.”  Additional information available at www.bloomsdayrun.org.  Participation numbers for comparable races according to runningusa.org and active.com.

SEE ALSO: Forty Years Running (the runners who ran the first 40 Bloomsdays)

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