Spectator Numero Uno. This is the new title I have given to myself for my participation in Bloomsday. Sunday was the second year running that I hauled myself down to Spokane, got up at some crazy hour for a Sunday morning, and arrived at downtown Spokane to see many people very eager to run together.
This year marks the 31st running of Bloomsday. The caption on the website says, "It's fun for every body." And indeed, the participants range from elite runners (who vie for a $7,000 top prize - one each for men and women), wheelchair athletes, children, walkers, and baby strollers. This year I saw a dog at the start line, sitting in a pouch tied around the owner's waist. One of the year's I did the route, there was Elvis.
For the 31st Bloomsday, I decided to capture some of the grand traditions of Bloomsday. This picture is the start of the Elite Men:
People are organized in groups with the names of colours; each of the groups has a specific start time so it does not get too crazy. The Elite Men start at 9:00 and the last group to start is an hour and 10 minutes later. This year, 40,323 people participated.
As everyone lines up early in the day when the weather is cool, it is necessary to wear warm outer clothing. Once the race begins, people fling off this layer and throw it into the sidelines, usually aiming for a tree. Later, crews from local used clothing stores come to the streets and pick up the items to sell. Participants, I understand, often go to the used clothing stores ahead of time, buy an article of clothing for Bloomsday, and then donate it back.
The streets of Spokane, as the race commences:
In addition to this donation, each year, funds from the race are donated to a specific charity.
After I watched the Elite Men start, I hung around the start line and then walked to the finish line. By that time, there were already people finishing. The fastest man completed the course this year in 34 minutes and 18 seconds; the fastest woman finished in 38 minutes and 52 seconds.
Each person who finishes Bloomsday gets a t-shirt. It is a best-kept secret what will be the colour of the t-shirt; each year there is a new logo that, too, is kept hushed.
This year's surprise:
And the image:
Another Bloomsday tradition is the handling of the crowds. Smooth. One of the problems with over 40,000 people coming downtown is parking, so Spokane City Transit has their fleet at 4 outlying locations and the buses express their way to downtown. The cost is $1.00 (return).
By the time, I reached the finish line, there were many people already finishing the course. I decided to walk up the sidewalk for a better view to where there were less onlookers. As I walked, I faced the crowds coming towards the finish line - the runners were excited, exhausted and some were pained. After walking for a while, I came upon this:
The Mile 7 marker. The race is actually in kilometers; the equivalent in miles is 7.46. For some reason, the miles are marked - kilometers are not.
Along the way, there is plenty of entertainment for the racers. This year, over 30 bands, vocalists and performing troupes participated. I saw two - one band had 5 members, all dressed up in animal costumes.
Then, there is Doomsday Hill. Very scarey.
After a while, I decided to go back to the finish line and found these two cheerleaders:
The Bloomsday route winds through neighbourhood streets where people have taken out their lawn chairs, planted themselves along the sidewalk edge. Some bring out hoses to cool off the perspiring runners. Some turn up their stereos inside the house for the street party. Indeed, as one of the onlookers told me, "the greatest thing about Bloomsday is the community involvement." Many people donate their time, not only at the event, but also beforehand to train people how to run 12 kilometers.
Bloomsday was named after the lilacs that bloom so spectacularly for such a brief season. Bloomsday is always on the first Sunday in May - but the weather doesn't always cooperate so the lilacs may not be in their glory.
This year, they were: