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Virtual Bloomsday, All 10 Days Of It, Opens This Weekend

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

A 43-year-old Spokane sports tradition will take place this weekend, about four months later than usual.

The 12-kilometer Bloomsday run is one of the nation’s largest timed road races, with 35,000-to-50,000 participants, depending on the year.

It’s usually run the first Sunday in May. This year, because of the coronavirus, it was postponed. But there will be a 2020 version, in a different form, even with one last obstacle.

Bloomsday was created in 1977 by former Olympic marathoner Don Kardong. Tens of thousands of runners and walkers pack together downtown and then slowly separate over a seven-and-a-half mile course. With the need to keep participants physically distanced, organizer Jon Neill and his team decided to bag the usual format this year and let runners and walkers create their own courses, whether they’re in Spokane or Spain or somewhere else.

They were to have a three-day window, this weekend, to complete their runs and report back to race officials so they could collect their coveted finisher t-shirt.

But with the air quality for this weekend still uncertain on the West Coast, Neill had to make one last adjustment. He’s giving runners an extra week.

“I just wanted to make sure that everyone had the cleanest air to breathe when they’re outside exercising," he said.

Now they have until Sunday, September 27 to finish their runs and report their race results.

Neill says nearly 25,000 people have signed up. That’s a small number for a traditional Bloomsday. But he’s thrilled that a virtual race could draw that kind of crowd.

“The entries just kept pouring in and so, when we stopped, we had 24,700 and, believe it or not, in just reopening our portal last night to accommodate those who have contacted us about please let us in, in the span of approximately 12 hours, we’ve already added 125 entries," he said.

And as they fill out their information after their runs, Neill is encouraging people to send pictures.

“I just received one on Instagram from Sweden. One of our participants had finished their Virtual Bloomsday and included a map of their course," he said.

Neill says runners from 20 nations and all over the U.S. are participating in what will undoubtedly become one of the most memorable of all the Bloomsday races.