Just a few steps left to go before Bloomsday begins

May 3—Thousands milled in and out of the Spokane Convention Center Friday, some of the last steps to go before they take part in the annual Bloomsday run on Sunday.

More people are grabbing their bibs and readying to race — or walk — the Bloomsday route than during any year since the pandemic, according to Bethany Lueck, communications coordinator for the Lilac Bloomsday Association. Over 34,000 people have already registered to take part, more than 2023, 2022 or 2019, the last race before the pandemic led to the 2020 and 2021 races to shift to a virtual format.

The event's recovery is a "testament to Spokane and the community that loves this event, and we're just here to help facilitate that," Lueck said.

A small army of volunteers was helping those thousands of Bloomsday participants take their final steps before Sunday's race, handing them race numbers and information at the Spokane Convention Center.

Around 3,000 volunteers are helping to make one of Spokane's biggest events of the year happen smoothly, Lueck noted. After finalizing their registration, participants wandered the more than 130 commercial booths, including sports apparel brands, credit unions, food vendors, massaging device mongers and an ever-popular potato industry representative handing out spuds by the bag.

It's the third time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that racers are coming in person to the expo and Sunday's race, and while many are hoping to test their mettle and break personal records this weekend, many more will return to Bloomsday out of a love of community.

Frank Carroll is on his 15th Bloomsday, having run most years since he moved here in 2003 with his wife, Alice. She won't be running this year, saying she plans to just "be a pretty face" — but one that will probably be cheering on from home, given the forecast for rain, she chuckles. Frank will instead be running alongside his nephew, Tony Carroll, who traveled from Arizona for Bloomsday.

Frank said he used to be a fairly regular runner, and participated in a number of half-marathons in Alaska, including the Midnight Sun Run out of Fairbanks. Bloomsday blows them out of the water, he said.

"There's way more people, more excitement, more entertainment and more places to die on the course," he added.

Frank is in the camp that believes it is Cemetery Hill, not Doomsday Hill, that is the real killer on the course.

For many runners like the Carrolls, Bloomsday is a family affair. Madison MK-Bharucha is on her 30th or so, having participated with her father Patrick McHenry-Kroetch since she was a baby. Logan McHenry-Kroetch has similarly been walking the course since she was a child, and on Sunday will do so for the 25th time. MK-Bharucha will be passing along the tradition to her baby, Maeve.

For the family, who emphasizes that they will "walk, slowly" during Bloomsday, the hardest part of the race is having enough time to eat as many cookies as they want, or else finishing the entire length of Bloomsday only to then have to make the long trek back to the car.

Bloomsday participants can pick up their race number from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Convention Center. Out-of-town entrants can pick it up 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. Sunday. Online registration for the in-person race closes at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, while in-person registration at the Convention Center concludes at 4 p.m.