The Lilac Bloomsday Run, initiated by local runner Don Kardong in the late 1970s, emerged amidst the national running boom. Following his participation in the 1976 Olympic Marathon, Kardong proposed a downtown run for Spokane, inspired by the city’s renewed interest in its downtown area after hosting Expo ’74. With support from Mayor David Rodgers, the Jaycees, and major sponsor Medical Service Corporation, the inaugural Bloomsday Run took place on May 1, 1977, attracting over a thousand runners. The event’s success and national reputation grew rapidly, reaching a peak of 61,298 participants in 1996.
During its history, the Lilac Bloomsday Run has continually evolved, introducing innovations such as prize money for top runners and wheelchair racers starting in 1982. The event consistently draws the world’s elite competitors, becoming a member of the ARRA and PRRO Circuits of major U.S. running events. What sets Bloomsday apart is its inclusive nature, welcoming a diverse range of participants from elite runners to recreational joggers and walkers. This inclusivity has had a profound impact on the community, fostering a sense of unity and shared accomplishment among residents. The race has become a symbol of spring in Spokane, transcending its role as a mere athletic event to embody a celebration that brings the entire community together.
LILAC BLOOMSDAY ASSOC. MISSION STATEMENT
To promote national and international sports competition and fitness education for the civic betterment, social improvement, and physical well-being of the general public.
Bloomsday Hosts 27th PRRO Championship
The PRRO Circuit showcases world class competition at America’s Classic Road Races, including the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile in Washington, DC; the Boilermaker 15Kin Utica, NY; the Quad City Times Bix 7 in Davenport, IA: and the Lilac Bloomsday Run. Circuit prize money totals more than $285,000 in guaranteed prize money overall, including $95,000 in U.S.-only money. The PRRO Circuit, a nationwide series of premier non-marathon road racing events, is organized and promoted by the Professional Road Running Organization (PRRO), an alliance of race directors. The 2023 PRRO Championship was hosted by the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile in Washington, DC.
Bloomsday’s impact on the Spokane region goes beyond fitness, contributing significantly to the economy. A 2004 Gonzaga University study, overseen by Professor Scott Bozman, found a direct economic impact of $9,576,959.64. Adjusted for inflation, this amounts to about $12,130,448.88 in 2017 dollars. The study involved 60 marketing students interviewing 568 finishers and 202 spectators, revealing an overall direct economic impact of approximately $12,130,448.88 in 2017.
Since 1977, Bloomsday has become an integral part of Spokane, cultivating unique race day traditions. From the mysterious Doomsday Hill Vulture to the globally renowned finisher shirt kept secret until you cross the finish line, the event is filled with distinctive charm. Tossing your warm up shirt into the trees on Riverside Ave. for charity, multiple bands lining the 12k course provide a lively soundtrack, otter pops and donuts handed out by spectators and runner statues in Riverfront Park don vintage Bloomsday shirts, adding a touch of nostalgia. Whether running or walking, Bloomsday offers more than just a race—it’s an unforgettable experience that must be witnessed!
Bloomsday is dedicated to involving community members in various aspects, including the design of the event’s T-shirts, sponsorship initiatives, and collaborative efforts. This commitment reflects a desire to engage and incorporate the diverse perspectives and talents within the community, fostering a sense of ownership and shared contribution to the success of Bloomsday. By actively including community members in these key elements, the event not only becomes a celebration of running but also a collective endeavor that strengthens community bonds and participation.
Doomsday Hill Vulture
Bill Robinson is the Doomsday Hill Vulture. And since 1987, he has been the official welcoming party to runners and walkers summiting Bloomsday’s famous Doomsday Hill.
The story of the Vulture is a lot like the story of Bloomsday: accidental followed by a ground swell of popularity and enthusiasm.
Bill entered a Halloween costume contest in 1986. His entry: an enormous turkey vulture that was 10 feet tall with a 16 foot wingspan made from rubber, bird feathers, papier-mache and foam. And then someone said: “You should take that costume and stand on top of Doomsday Hill when they run that famous race.”
And as they say . . . the rest is history.
Since then, Bill has become the unofficial mascot of Bloomsday and the ultimate high-5 machine. While standing directly in the middle of the course, Bill takes his lumps, hits, stomps and squeezes on race day. Kids have been known to sit on his feet; everyone slaps a high-5 on their way by; and many adoring fans snap pics and offer a friendly hug.
He is the most ominous and lovable creature on the course.
Those that are shocked to see the vulture at the 5-mile mark have some of the best quotes and utterances:
“Did you know that you have a guy in a giant bird costume at the top of your horrible hill?”
“Did you see that buzzard?”
“What? You didn’t see the Vulture?”
“Is he supposed to be on the course?”
“There’s someone inside it?”
“Why a vulture?”
At the end of the day, Bill logs more than 5 hours in the suit. His wife, Sharon, stands with him the entire time as security detail while also offering assistance and reminding him from time to time that he has a toddler perched on his spongy talons. Their “Bloomsday” is a mix of equal parts exhaustion, euphoria, accomplishment, and community goodwill.
When asked why he does it, Bill’s response is simple: “Fun.” “When people come up the hill, I like to think of it as a pleasant surprise.”
In 1986, Bill won the Halloween contest for best costume. And since then he has continued to win our pounding hearts year after year on the top of Doomsday Hill.
Thank you, Bill, for your Bloomsday spirit.
Since 2009, Bloomsday has been actively dedicated to minimizing the environmental impact of staging a large-scale community running event. Launching the “Getting Greener” initiative, the event has achieved substantial successes, with over 70% of participants opting for online registration, thousands of rides on STA shuttles, and initiatives like recycling plastic water bottles and donating discarded clothing to charity. In addition to these accomplishments, Bloomsday has expanded its sustainability efforts, composting discarded water cups, recycling hundreds of pounds of cardboard annually, and increasing the overall percentage of waste diverted to composting or recycling. The event has also played a role in enhancing public transportation, reducing printed materials, and earning ReSport Certification for its commitment to responsible sport practices.
To further support these ongoing initiatives and promote a greener approach, Bloomsday encourages participants with 12 practical steps. From minimizing car usage to recycling at Safeway Stores, using reusable water bottles, and supporting local produce, these steps aim to cultivate a more environmentally conscious running community. Bloomsday’s commitment extends beyond the race itself, inspiring runners to embrace a greener lifestyle and contribute to the sustainability of both the event and the broader community.