Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bloomsday 12K Race Report

56,640. That's a lot of people. A LOT of people. That's NYC Marathon numbers of people. And, well, there's a lot more room in 26.2 miles for people to spread out.

We woke up weirdly early to bright blue skies, then watched in dismay as a weird fog rolled in. I'm happy to report that we weren't any the worse for wear after last night's Booze Day "Marathon". We also noticed, at 7:30, a few dozen people in the yellow corral that began at the end of our street. Luckily, in the hour or so that passed before we stepped out, the fog burned off and it was GLORIOUS. Perfect weather for a run!
I liked the organization at the race -- at least what seemed like organization. There were starting corrals grouped by color, and specific cross streets that led in to each one. We had been put in the orange corral.

We got there a few minutes before 9, having been told that our corral would start between 9:15 and 9:45, and that we should be in position 30 minutes before that. Whatever. It soon became clear that people of all bib colors were trying -- and succeeding -- to enter the orange corral. Which was a bit weird.

my bib
Finally, at around 9:20, and with a huge roar, our corral began their march forward. We merged onto Riverside Avenue and were completely stunned by the sheer mass of people stretching as far as the eye could see.
looking Westward towards the start on Riverside
looking Eastward back up Riverside

We moved forward a hundred feet or so at a time -- I don't think anyone was actually starting, but maybe? We were blocks and blocks from the start line still. We amused ourselves by admiring the trees.

We had read somewhere about "shirts in the trees" and didn't really get it. But apparently there's a tradition of throwing your "disposable" warm clothes into the trees in the starting corrals. Race organizers collect it and donate it to charity. Nice.

shirts in the trees
Finally, at nearly 9:45, we started to moved forward in earnest and our corral started. As we walked to the starting line, the announcer said, "I don't know how to break it to you, but we already have a winner." (Unofficially 33:58 for the men, 40:23 for the women.) Well, that took some pressure off. ;)

packed in like sardines

We crossed the start line completely packed in. We could do little more than jog almost in place, trying desperately to find some open ground. We had noticed while in the corrals that a huge number of people had their bibs pinned on their backs... a sure sign of new runners. And an indicator that people might not know the accepted behavior in a race.

You know, the little things -- like not lining up at the front of a corral and walking 4 or 5 abreast? Like heeding the organizer's instructions to run left, walk right? Like knowing how to dispose of a half-full cup of water?

We spent the first mile trying to break through the crowds, dodging here and there, careening from one side of the road to the other. Many times we had to just stop short because there just wasn't any room. We started to get frustrated. Okay, *I* started to get frustrated. And then it dawned on us.

This was meant to be a fun run.

So we just shifted over to the right side of the course and had a leisurely walk.... which increased our enjoyment immensely. Suddenly we noticed how pretty the back roads of Spokane were. How amazing it was to be constantly surrounded by thousands of people. How many people used shiny paint pens in neon colors to decorate their shirts...

We also started really noticing the bands -- loads of them, every couple of blocks. Lots of young kids in bands, which we thought was cool. We cheered for every one. My favorite was one I could only hear -- right at the bottom of Doomsday Hill, playing sped-up indie rock versions of Disney tunes. Awesome!

We first glimpsed Doomsday Hill as we were sauntering down the hill to the river -- and it was astounding. Thousands of people streaming (slowly) up the hill that just went on and on. So when we crossed the bridge and headed up ourselves, we just put our heads down and went up up up.

More than once we had that weird realization that we were walking and passing people who were jogging.

Once we hit the top of Doomsday, we returned to suburban Spokane, passing through neighborhoods full of people holding parties, showing off their finisher shirts, and spraying water at the runners. I was really surprised at just how hilly the course was -- lots of ups and downs the entire way.

Suddenly, we were at the final turn. Still elbow to elbow with others, we decided to push through and run for a bit, holding hands across the finish line.

So, hey, we didn't run much. But we had a lovely walk through Spokane with some very nice people, on a gorgeous day.

Once we finished, we joined the crowds walking toward the shirt pick-up. We didn't have a lot of time -- we were supposed to be out of our hotel by noon -- but it was pretty efficient.

Yellow. Yellow shirts. Oh well.

2011 finisher shirt
Then we hurried back to the hotel, quickly showered and packed, and were out of the room by 12:05.

Would I run Bloomsday again? Probably not. (Heck, we barely ran it this year! Snort.) But I'm glad to have done this massive event.

Bloomsday medal ... picked up at expo...

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