Lilac Bloomsday Festival, Spokane’s Premiere Event

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Every first Sunday of May beginning 1977, Spokane, Washington holds the Lilac Bloomsday Festival. This timed race is popularly known as the “Bloomsday” Run. The course stretches 7.76 miles long and starts at Downtown, Spokane, then passes the Mukogowa Ft. Wright Institute and Spokane Falls Community College and finally ends at the north end of the Monroe Street Bridge.

It was Don Kardong, a local professional runner in Spokane, who founded the Lilac Bloomsday Festival. He says the name Bloomsday was inspired by James Joyce’s Ulysses. Every finisher of the race gets to receive a Bloomsday t-shirt as souvenir.

The Lilac Bloomsday Festival attracts over 40, 000 runners every year since 1986. The height of its popularity was in 1996, when 61 298 participants registered to run. In the last 2008 Bloomsday Run, there were 47 428 registrants. In the women’s division, Lineth Chepkurui set an unofficial 12km world record in 2010.

The first Bloomsday run was on May 1, 1977 at around 1:30 pm.There were over a thousand runners that day. The event was billed “Run With the Stars” in its promotional materials. The first place went to the celebrity Frank Shorter (Olympic gold and silver medalist), followed in second by Herm Atkins and in third by Don Kardong, the race’s founder.

The first Bloomsday race was so successful that it led to a larger number of participants the following year. The publicity due to a sanctioning dispute with local AAU officials aided the rise in the popularity of the event. There were 5,000 registered runners in 1978. It was now a big event by any standards. The win by Bill Rodgers of Boston helped the popularity of Bloomsday on a national scale.

The Lilac Festival is restricted only to runners, self-propelled wheelchairs (under WSUSA rules), joggers, and walkers. It should be noted that the following are strictly NOT allowed (as mentioned in the official website of the Lilac Bloomsday Run):

  • Dogs
  • Bicycles
  • Roller Skates
  • Roller Blades
  • Wagons
  • Skateboards
  • Hand Cycles
  • Motorized Wheelchairs

Also, it is strongly suggested that participants do not wear headphones, iPods, etc. These may impede the participant’s hearing posing a great danger to them.

The Lilac Festival is not just for adults but for youngsters as well. In 1987, the program Fit For Bloomsday was instituted. It brackets youngsters in the elementary level. It now has an annual turnout of 6 000 participating students from different elementary schools.Fit For Bloomsday promotes wellness to students, even at their tender years. Also, the Lilac Bloomsday Association provides airline tickets each fall since 1993 to top high school cross country runners to participate in the Footlocker Western Regional Cross Country Championships in California.

For more than thirty years, the Lilac Bloomsday Festival has woven itself into the lives of the people in Spokane, Washington. For most of the locals in the Inland Northwest, spring is never without Bloomsday.

write by Pandora

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