Lifelong Spokanite, new runner designs both Bloomsday finisher and volunteer shirts for 2024

May 4—Gordon Smith III has fond memories of standing in front of the Spokane County Courthouse watching his grandfather, Gordon Smith Sr., finish Bloomsday.

At the time, Smith Sr., now 91, was an avid runner in general and a "perennial," those who have competed in Spokane's signature race every year since its inception. He hung up his running shoes in 2010.

Smith III ran once with his brother as a child but never kept up with the race. Whenever he got on a health kick, though, Smith, 35, would turn to running.

He began to take it seriously in 2021 after a health scare. He ran the virtual Bloomsday in 2022.

"Suddenly after finishing that, I had a huge goal that I wanted to get one of those Bloomsday yellow bibs," he said.

So, he began training.

In 2023, he got his yellow bib and finished the race in 57 minutes, 52 seconds.

Sure, he'd like to get a personal record this year but he has already achieved a big goal going into Sunday: designing the finisher shirt.

The younger Smith grew up in Mead, where he met his wife, Ashley, when they were in high school. They married in 2012. He went to Eastern Washington University to study design and now works for a business consulting firm. The couple has two daughters, Addison, 8, and Karli, 3.

In 2020, Smith III was trying to get into fitness with the lockdown weight gain and boredom setting in, he said.

"Running was always an interest of mine," he said, pointing to his grandpa's love for the sport.

He ran his first Bloomsday since 2001 on a treadmill that year. Then in 2021, he had the health scare and began taking his health more seriously. He lost 50 pounds and began running frequently.

Around the same time, entering the contest to design the finisher shirt became a goal. He created designs in 2020, but when he realized he would have to submit them in person, he got cold feet.

"I am naturally more of a shy person," he said.

Going to the in-person races he ran to train for Bloomsday pushed him to be more outgoing, he said. He loved the 2022 shirt design, too, which helped motivate him to submit.

His design was accepted for the finisher medal in 2023.

"That kind of motivated me even more," Smith III said.

But he never expected to get not one, but two designs accepted for 2024.

He submitted more than a dozen designs this year and in October got the call that his work was chosen for both the finisher and volunteer shirts.

"I was definitely floored," Smith III said.

The race course and the landmarks participants pass were the inspiration for the winning design, he said.

"Everyone will know what it is when they see it," Smith III said. "I'm a big fan of very simple, clean-looking designs."

The color of the shirt is chosen by Bloomsday, Smith III said, then he adapted the colors of his design to fit.

On Thursday, Smith got to go see the shirts being printed.

"I have not been able to properly admire it," the younger Smith said with anticipation.

Smith III plans to finish the race, hopefully faster than last year, and then double back to walk the course with his wife and daughters. He is both excited and nervous .

"I still get a little giddy and excited when I see something I worked on downtown," Smith said. "So it will be crazy to see it on hundreds if not thousands of people."