Spokane, WA—After nearly three decades and over 1,140,000 finishers, the Lilac Bloomsday Run is undergoing a major operational overhaul that will change the way participants are timed, as well as the way they start and finish.
“For thirty years our volunteers have done an outstanding job of managing the start and finish so every finisher receives an accurate time and place,” said Lilac Bloomsday Association President Al Odenthal. “But this year we’re adopting a new timing system that will work even better in recording how long it takes runners, joggers and walkers to get from the start to the finish.”
The new system employs a computer chip 1-1/2 inches wide that attaches to the ankle of each participant. When the chip crosses over a series of mats at the start, timing is initiated for that participant using radio frequency identification. Another series of mats at the finish record the finishing time, and a net time for the individual is computed. Using this system, delays getting to the start do not impact the time recorded for each finisher.
“This new system adds some expense to our entry fee,” said Odenthal, “But we think our entrants will really appreciate a system that tells exactly how long it took them to cover the 12-kilometer distance.”
Along with the change in timing, Bloomsday officials will have all participants start on Riverside this year, instead of the traditional two-pronged start that also used Sprague. In addition, the finish line has been moved to the north end of the Monroe Street Bridge, just above the falls.
“The new finish area will be spectacular,” said Odenthal, “And it also satisfies the requests of many participants who have asked us to move the finish closer to downtown.”
After crossing the finish at the north end of the Monroe Street Bridge, participants will continue across the bridge and take a sharp left onto Spokane Falls Boulevard, reaching the southwest corner of Riverfront Park near the runner statues. From there they’ll funnel into the park, where a variety of activities are planned, including live music and a Bloomsday Food Court.
Riverfront Park will also be the location of a new event called the Marmot March on the day before Bloomsday. Open to kids grade one and younger and their parents, the Marmot March will be a non-competitive 1.2-mile tour of the park. The Marmot March is open for the first 300 children who sign up, and joins “The World’s Largest Spaghetti Feed” among Bloomsday activities in the Park on Saturday.
While many changes are in store for the 30th Bloomsday, some things will remain the same. Competition at the front end promises to be fierce, as world-class racers and wheelchairs battle for prize money, top age-group runners vie for medals, and businesses scramble for top honors among over 250 teams entered in the Corporate Cup competition, which this year is sponsored by Deaconess Medical Center.
For those farther back in the pack, on-course entertainment and the cheers of spectators should help make the 7-1/2-mile journey fun and memorable. During its nearly thirty years on the Spokane scene, Bloomsday has become a favored spring gathering place for families and friends, most of whom complete the course and collect the coveted finisher’s shirt, the color and design of which are kept secret until the finish line.
Bloomsday isn’t just for adults either. Last year nearly 10,000 entrants age 18 or younger completed the course, and nearly 5,000 elementary school children will soon take their first steps of the spring as part of the Fit for Bloomsday...Fit for Lifetraining program, now in its twenty-first year. 60 elementary schools have signed up for the program, which is sponsored by Subway and Riverfront Park.
Bloomsday continues its policy this year of designating an official charity, with the 2006 designation going to the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery. Entrants are encouraged to make a donation when they sign up, and a series of whimsical metal sculptures are being developed by artist “Blowtorch Annie” to be placed along the course on race morning and auctioned off after Bloomsday ’07. All proceeds will benefit the nursery.
Major sponsors for Bloomsday ’06 include Washington Trust Bank, New Balance, Southwest Airlines, Premera Blue Cross, Holy Family Hospital/Sacred Heart Medical Center, Snyder’s Bakery, Jerzees, Gart Sports, Safeway, Microsoft, McDonald’s and The Inlander. Bloomsday is also supporting the efforts of the Spokane Regional Health District again this year by becoming an official tobacco-free event. As an event that promotes health and fitness, Bloomsday encourages participants and spectators alike to help keep all events and venues smoke-free on Bloomsday weekend.
Online registration for Bloomsday ’06 is now open, and printed entry brochures will soon be available at locations throughout the Inland Northwest. The on-time entry fee for Bloomsday has been raised to $14.00 this year to implement computer chip timing, but the fee is still one of the lowest in the nation for a major running event. Mailed in entries must be postmarked by April 18 to avoid the late entry fee of $30.00. In addition, Gart Sports will be taking entry forms at their two local stores from now until the entry deadline of April 18.
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