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Fleets on Foot 

by INLANDER STAFF & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & "T & lt;/span & hey won by a mile." Actually, in a comparison test of Bloomsday entrants, the clich & eacute; doesn't hold: The men's elite runners (many of them from Kenya) beat the average Bloomie by five and a half miles. Their feet are indeed fleet -- and the fleetest belong to former Bloomsday champions Gilbert Okari and John Korir.





Okari won here two years ago, then added a win at the World's Best 10K in Puerto Rico. He regularly puts in 140-mile training weeks. Korir, meanwhile, has won San Francisco's Bay to Breakers once, Peoria's Steamboat Four-Mile twice, and Bloomsday three times.





Their countryman, Robert Letting, won South Carolina's 10K Cooper River Bridge Run last month. And Julius Kibet Koskei matched a third-place finish here last year with a runner-up spot at San Francisco's Bay to Breakers.





But it's not just the Kenyans who are quick. Ridouane Harroufi of Morocco may have finished seventh here last year, but he won the Bolder Boulder 10K last year and won this season's Cherry Blossom 10-Mile in Washington, D.C. John Yuda may have finished second three times last year (at Cherry Blossom, at the San Jose Half Marathon, and here at Bloomsday) but he also holds three Tanzanian national records. And Dieudonne Disi of Rwanda, an Olympic 10K participant at both Athens and Beijing, merely appears in the current world marathon rankings at No. 9.





Still, Bloomsday 2008 seems likely to boil down to a two-man race. Jon Neill, who acts as Bloomsday president and elite field coordinator, says that he's "real eager to watch Korir and Okari battle. In 2005, Okari blazed to an 8:40-ish two-mile split, faded, and then Korir bested him. In '06, Korir didn't run and Okari ran a personal-best 34:14. Last year, Okari scratched [just two days before the race]."





Neill clearly thinks this year promises a Kenyan showdown: "Both Korir and Okari appear to be healthy," he says. "Under the right conditions, we certainly have a field capable of running a sub-34."


Only three men have ever finished Bloomsday in less than 34 minutes. Which put them several miles ahead of most of us.





& lt;span class= "dropcap " & O & lt;/span & n the women's side, Catherine the Great will be running -- and Kenya's Catherine Ndereba has earned that nickname. She's a four-time Boston Marathon winner and has won the London Marathon twice. At the Athens Olympics, she won a silver medal in the women's marathon and won last year's World Marathon Championships series (based on times at marathons in London, Berlin, Boston, New York and Chicago). A 12K course, however, must seem too short to a marathoner like Ndereba, who finished fourth here last year.





The women's Bloomsday champion of 12 years ago will compete once again this year. Colleen De Reuck (originally from South Africa, now living in Boulder, Colo.) also won the 2004 U.S. Olympic trials in the marathon. And Poland's Dorota Gruca had top-five finishes at Bloomsday in 2005 and 2006.





Those three veterans -- Ndereba and Gruca are both 35, while De Reuck is 44 -- will be challenged this year by a younger generation of Kenyan women. Three weeks ago in Southern California, Genoveva Kigen took third place in the Carlsbad 5K; among women, Running Times ranks her as the 10th-best road racer in the world. Two seasons ago, Lineth Chepkurui won a couple of 10Ks and a half-marathon here in the United States; even now, like Kigen, she's only 20. And Angelina Mutuku, 25, strung together a half-dozen top-10 finishes last year at distances ranging from five to 13 miles.





-- MICHAEL BOWEN





OTHER FUN FOR BLOOMIES


CORPORATE CUP POST-RACE PARTY


Sunday, May 4, until 1 pm


Bloomsday's post-race celebration actually takes place before and after the race. The exclusive ninth annual party is for Corporate Cup and Second/Senior Seed runners only (and guests) and will take place under the tent in Riverfront Park. You don't even have to worry about your keys, clothes, purses or skateboards -- you can have them transported directly to the Corporate Cup tent, where they'll be waiting for you when you finish. For $10 a person, Corporate Cup teams can invite up to five additional friends, clients, marmots, family members or friends. You can still buy tickets when you pick up your Corporate Cup packet.





POST-RACE PARTY AND BLOOMSDAY FOOD COURT


Sunday, May 4, until 3 pm


If you're not part of the Corporate Cup party, visit the Post-Race Party and Bloomsday Food Court for live music and snacking options from Pizza Rita, Island Noodles, Azars, Kick'n Chicken or Chewy's Southwestern Grill. Purchase a lunch pass bracelet for $7 and receive lunch along with a 20-ounce beverage. Bracelets are good for a visit to one of the food vendors above or may be redeemed as $5 toward the purchase of a more expensive item. Bracelets can be purchased at the Bloomsday Food Court booth at the Bloomsday Free Trade Show (located at the Convention Center on Friday and Saturday). The party also features Henry Weinhard's Post-Race Beer Garden in the East Gondola Meadow (ID required) for adults and the Interactive Kids Zone for youngsters.





-- BLAIR TELLERS





For more information, visit www.bloomsdayrun.org





Get YOUR Results!


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & O & lt;/span & n Tuesday, May 6 -- for the fourth year -- The Inlander will publish Bloomsday's Official Souvenir Results Booklet. Available free at most of the more than 800 locations throughout Eastern Washington and North Idaho, it's your only source for hard-copy published race times. It will also include plenty of photos, articles and Bloomsday stats.





To get your free copy on May 6, go to your normal Inlander pickup spot, visit the Bloomsday office at 1610 W. Riverside Ave., or The Inlander office at 1020 W. Riverside Ave. To have a copy mailed to you, contact the Lilac Bloomsday Association at 838-1579 or go to www.bloomsday.org.





SPEED RACER


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & hink the disabled can't be athletes? You try going downhill on a tricycle at 45 mph with your hands strapped shut and no seat belt.





Amberlynn Weber, 14


Greenacres Middle School, Spokane Valley


Team St. Luke's, representing St. Luke's Rehab Institute, Spokane


Coach: Teresa Skinner


Amber's time last year at Bloomsday: 44:30


Her goal this year: To finish among the top three women





Amber's racing chair


Invacare Top End Eliminator OSR


Frame


Aluminum


Weight


20 lbs.


Seat belt


None (It's rare, even in a crash, for a racer to get separated from her chair.)


Back belt


Keeps the athlete in a forward position (more aero, more efficient)


Push rim


The racer "punches" this to power the chair.


Rear wheels


27 inches


Steering


(for slight curves) Shift weight slightly backward and pop a small wheelie to change direction; (for sharper corners) gently push the spring-loaded, V-shaped steering mechanism, which will then snap back into a straight-ahead position


Wheel camber


11 to 15 degrees (for road races, wider for increased stability)


Odometer and speedometer


(Racers can reach 45 mph going down Riverside in Mile 2 of the course, down toward Latah Creek


Front wheel


20-inch diameter





DID YOU KNOW?


& lt;li & Racers' hands are strapped shut. They can't grip anything -- not the push rims, not the brakes, not the steering mechanism. & lt;/li &


& lt;li & Pushing motion: Follow the push rim all the way around and release at the back bottom of the push rim; release backwards and without the wrists splaying outwards. & lt;/li &


& lt;li & The downward "punch" on the push rims (also known as "hand rings") actually contacts the rubberized ring across the knuckles, on the outside of the hand; gloves are hardened as protection for the racer's hands. & lt;/li &


& lt;li & Transfer from day chair into racing chair: The wheelchair athlete kneels into it, turns around in kneeling position, pops one hip into the seat and then the other -- it's a very snug fit, with the racer trying to achieve a sense of being "at one with the chair." & lt;/li &


& lt;li & Beginning racers and some quadriplegic racers (who have low body trunk stability) will position themselves in the chair with knees high up in front of their chests and feet resting on a footplate. But the more aerodynamic position is to sit on your haunches with knees far forward. & lt;/li &


& lt;li & Toughest part of Bloomsday course: "The downhills ... especially if you're not used to that kind of speed," says racer Amberlynn Weber. St. Luke's wheelchair racing coach Teresa Skinner comments: "We tell them to tap the brakes ... to have a 'gentle front end.'" Weight distribution is well to the rear, so any sudden twitches or turns can easily send the racer into an out-of-control wobble or even crash. & lt;/li &





THERE & amp; BACK AGAIN


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & N & lt;/span & othing gets the blood up like the acrid, salty whiff of competition. It steels the mind and heightens the senses. Sweat on the brow and all that. It's one of the reasons Bloomsday is so damned popular: Everyone, for their part, can feel like a serious competitor. Though the Kenyans will have finished hours before, even a child-burdened mother can catch the thrill, passing once and for all -- just before the final turn onto Monroe! --that uppity couple pushing the dual stroller.





Sadly, though, Spokane -- as serious a drinking town as a running town -- has neglected its boozing non-runners for years now, banishing them to the porches and patios that line the race course. The only recourse for these sad multitudes to fuel their competitive spirit is lawn darts and beer pong. Compared with the adrenal gush of 7.46 miles among 42,000 fellow competitors, lawn darts ain't really any sort of recourse at all.





As is so often the case, the drunks fall through the cracks.





This year, local bars are racing (get it?!) to extend a safety net. The Boozeday Marathon, orchestrated by folks at Empyrean with a heady assist from Far West Billiards, have set up a Bloomsday weekend pub crawl marathon that stretches the breadth of downtown and back. The idea is two-fold: give the drunks their night of rushed glory while also offering -- somewhat fatuously -- a way for serious racers to carb-load and have a bit of fun. The race/crawl begins at Empyrean at 5 pm on Saturday and will end somewhere in the neighborhood of 1:30 the next morning. The idea, though, is to get through as soon as possible, taking a punch card around to all eight sanctioned bars and returning to Empyrean to receive the official Boozeday T-shirt.





The Inlander's corporate cup team fully intends to set land speed records at Bloomsday for moribund print journalists, so we'll be crawling Boozeday fast, too. Get in, get out, get to bed. It's a long way from Empyrean on Madison and Railroad to Prago on Browne and Riverside, and once you make it there's the whole return trip. It's best to strategize, plotting a path that allows refueling stops at an equal number of bars going out and coming back. Because we consider ourselves elite boozers, we'll share our strategy:





Bar 1: Empyrean -- No choice here, get something light, chug it, head out.





Bar 2: Far West -- The first long straightaway begins with Far West. Go there early in the evening to avoid the glut of half-dressed up pool and darts players who fill the place late.





Bar 3 (or 7): Baby Bar -- heading down First, peek your head in. If there's a clear line to the bar, hit it; if not, pass and come back. Being opportunistic is the key to all competition.





Bars 3 (or 4) and 6 (or 7): Mootsy's and Satellite -- The long, 12-ish-block slog from Lincoln to Browne is the equivalent of Doomsday and Cemetery Hills. Situated near the beginning and the end of the crawl, this stretch can sap motivation like nothing else. Luckily, two bars -- Mootsy's and Satellite -- lay halfway in between. Hit the less crowded on the way out and the other on the way back.





The Turnaround: Prago and Zombie Room -- Duck in Zombie Room and grab a quick one if you can, then head to Prago. Take a deep breath, hit some tapas or something and prepare for the return trip.





Remember: Baby Bar -- if you skipped it before. Seriously, you don't want to be DQed on a technicality.





Bar 8: Brooklyn Nights -- This tucked-away pub is perfectly placed for a quick pint before that final (sketchy) dash down Railroad Avenue and victory.





That's the course we'll be cutting. Good luck to all who compete; you'll be seeing our backs all night. n





-- LUKE BAUMGARTEN





The Inlander presents the Boozeday Marathon. Crawl begins Saturday, May 3, running (get it?!) from 5 pm to 1:30 am on Sunday. Registration is $10 and can be picked up at any of these participating bars: Empyrean (154 S. Madison St.), Far West Billiards (1001 W. First Ave.), Brooklyn Nights (122 S. Monroe St., No. 101), Baby Bar (827 W. First Ave.), Mootsy's (406 W. Sprague), Zombie Room (230 W. Riverside Ave.), Satellite (425 W. Sprague), or Prago (201 W. Riverside Ave.). Zac Fairbanks and the Boozefighters play Empyrean midnight-1:30 am.





AN ARMY OF BLOOMIES


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & s a pastor, Donald Ott always found himself occupied on Sunday mornings in Spokane and thus was never able to run this thing called Bloomsday, even though he was here all through the 1980s when the race's popularity was exploding.





"But my wife, Laura, began doing Bloomsday along with other members of the church way back then," Ott writes in an e-mail. "I could only encourage her in her training and otherwise just observe."





No more.





This Sunday, Lt. Col. Donald Ott Jr. of the 129th Chaplain Detachment at Camp Echo in south-central Iraq is spearheading the first running of a mass-entry Bloomsday in a combat zone. He had 60 soldiers signed up early this week and expects a surge (so to speak) of last-minute entries.





The 57-year-old will run shoulder to shoulder with soldiers from Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Ukraine, Uganda, Mongolia and India, as well as fellow Americans.





Call it the coalition of the willing ... to beat feet.





For years, Bloomsday aficionados have run a remote version of the race if they find themselves away from Spokane on that sacred Sunday. Any number of soldiers at bases in Iraq or Afghanistan or Kazakhstan have mapped out a 12-kilometer course and run the race as best they could.





Ott was expecting to do something similar -- pounding out his lonely laps in the heat and sand of a military base on the far side of the world from Peaceful Valley.





& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he Otts were called away from Spokane in 1990 to a church in upstate New York, but Laura Ott continued to fly back to Spokane each first Sunday in May for the run.





"One year she got me an 'Official Bloomsday Observers' T-shirt; 'We're tanned, we're rested, we're ready,'" Ott writes from Iraq in an e-mail exchange with The Inlander. That was the lone Bloomsday shirt in his dresser drawer for the longest time; meanwhile, those much-coveted finishers shirts kept piling up on his wife's side.





The Otts returned to Spokane five years later when Don took a job as hospital chaplain at Deaconess and Valley General for Empire Health Services.





"So 1995 was my first Bloomsday, and my wife and I ran it together side by side. That has to be my favorite Bloomsday 'moment,' though it lasted longer than a moment," Ott writes.





He has run all 13 Bloomsdays since -- including two while he was deployed as a chaplain at military bases elsewhere in the state -- and was determined not to break the string even when Uncle Sam came calling last year for a third time.





Ott has been deployed to Camp Echo. The Multi-National Division base is located near the city of Diwaniyah, which is between Baghdad and Basra on the Euphrates River. Since 2005, Camp Echo has been commanded by the Polish Army's 25th Air Cavalry.





Until recently, the base would come under fairly regular insurgent attack, but Ott writes that things are more peaceful now.





He was exchanging e-mails last fall with fellow Spokane hospital chaplain Pam Rossing on the prospects of running a lonely Bloomsday when he had his revelation.





"I was aware that some other soldiers had registered and done previous Bloomsdays as individuals during their tours here in Iraq, and I figured I'd just follow suit and do the same," he writes. "But in conversation with Pam, the idea seemed to grow into sharing the experience with the whole Camp Echo community. It seems kind of a no-brainer, really."





So after Thanksgiving, the two approached Bloomsday founder Don Kardong and the Bloomsday Association, to get their blessing ... so to speak. Kardong was sold instantly.





"We love the international field. It's hard for us to evaluate from here how that's all going to turn out -- but it's a pretty cool idea," Kardong says.





By military regulation, Ott cannot charge entry fees for any soldiers (or civilians) who sign up for Bloomsday in Iraq, so the Bloomsday Association has reduced the fee and Rossing and others in Spokane have been fund-raising like crazy.





They have made special Bloomsday in Iraq T-shirts and posters -- and sent them overseas, where Ott had "an autograph party," as he calls it. The shirts and posters, signed by soldiers from as many as 10 nations, were shipped back to Spokane and sold to cover entry fees.





Then there's the course -- a sun-baked gravel road inside a perimeter of T-sectioned concrete blast walls that surround the camp.





"Providentially, one lap around the camp is 4K long, so three laps and you have the 12K distance we need," Ott writes. "And while we do not have a Doomsday or Cemetery Hill ... we do have plenty of heat, uneven gravel roads, and, should one desire to run up and down a bit, we have 10 vehicle berms built next to the walls along the course route."





Ott has encountered very little red tape, he writes, describing the official reaction as "enthusiastic."





He and a few others from Spokane put up 30th Anniversary posters sent from Spokane and other materials snagged from the Internet. He began preaching the Gospel of Bloomsday around the base and distributing official race bibs sent from Spokane.





"Then, fortuitously," Ott writes, "Armed Forces Network broadcast the Boston Marathon and we were able to point to the leaders and tell people, 'See these guys? In a couple weeks, they will be in Spokane leading 50,000 or so other runners and walkers around the Bloomsday course.'"





He writes that most running events on base attract about two dozen entrants. In fact, the Marine Marathon at Camp Echo last October, Ott writes, "had two runners. So we feel pretty good about our event."





Bloomsday is a celebration of staying active, Ott writes, and "Bloomsday in Iraq is just my way of sharing that attitude with 50,000 of my closest friends from around the world."





-- KEVIN TAYLOR





KENYA'S UNREST


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & W & lt;/span & hen violence erupted in Eldoret, a city in Kenya's Rift Valley, all Margaret Chirchir could do was run.





Run for her life, as machete-wielding mobs attacked bystanders and set fire to homes.





Run for cover, as she and her husband along with their two young children hid for three days in a clump of thick bushes on the outskirts of town.





Chirchir, an emerging talent in the world of distance running, survived the bloody chaos that killed more than 1,000 people and displaced at least 600,000 in the East African country once known for its stability. She is one of about two dozen Kenyan athletes who will compete this year at Bloomsday. After all that she has been through in Kenya, Chirchir said she is just grateful to be alive and thankful for the opportunity to visit Spokane. It will be her first Bloomsday.





For many Kenyan runners, competing in road races in the United States not only gives them that rare chance to make a name for themselves, it also allows them to demonstrate their hard work, athleticism and sportsmanship -- a side of Kenya that's vastly different from the angry mobs and other brutal images that recently have emerged from their homeland.





"Terrible things happened -- I have never seen such a thing in my country," Chirchir said during a phone interview from Santa Fe, N.M., where she has been training since late February with the AmeriKenyan Running Club. "We were scared. We ran away."





Chirchir's hometown of Eldoret is the heartland of running in Kenya. After the controversial presidential election in December that resulted in widespread ethnic strife, Eldoret also became the epicenter of violence. Earlier this year, at least 50 people seeking refuge in an Eldoret church were burned alive, according to news reports. At the height of the violence in January, many more were slashed with machetes or stoned to death -- forcing residents to either flee like Chirchir or hide in their homes like Moses Kigen and Linus Maiyo, two other runners from Eldoret who will participate in Bloomsday this year.





When they learned that former Olympian Lucas Sang was killed in Eldoret during the fighting, they became too fearful to go outside, says Maiyo, who was watching the news soon after the clashes in Eldoret began.





So they locked their doors, covered their windows and remained trapped in their homes for seven days. Because they had not anticipated the sudden surge of violence, both men and their families ran out of food.





"It was horrible," Maiyo recalled during a phone interview from Royersford, Penn., where he lives and trains for several months each year while racing in the United States. "We feared for our life."





In her limited English, Chirchir tried to describe what many runners in Eldoret and other parts of western Kenya experienced during the first few weeks of the year: "No training. No running. No food."





Maiyo, 25, also was forced to postpone his wedding.





"It was very hard for us to go outside," he said. "I was not going to go out for training. If they see you wearing sports clothes, you may end up getting killed."





Many of the Kenyans who will compete on Sunday arrived in the United States in February. They recall the relief they felt when they set foot on American soil and were able to train safely outdoors. But tension remains high at home so they continue to worry about their families, said Chirchir, who left her husband, Paul, and her two sons, ages 8 and 4. After the turmoil in Eldoret, Chirchir and her family moved to the small farming community of Iten.





When Spokane attorney Jon Neill learned about the bloodshed in Kenya after the Dec. 27 elections, he feared for the runners whom he had befriended over the years. As president of the Lilac Bloomsday Association and coordinator of the elite athletes for the past four years, Neill has corresponded with many Kenyan runners. Every year, when they come to Spokane for Bloomsday, they spend time with Neill and have even invited him and his family to visit them in Kenya someday.





"They are so humble, respectful and so down-to-earth," said Neill. "It's hard to believe how all this can be taking place in their country."





Neill and others at the Bloomsday office anticipated that they would experience difficulty bringing some of the Kenyan athletes to Spokane. Some of the runners and their agents had contacted him in January to tell him how hard it was to travel to the airport in Nairobi due to the unrest.





Fortunately, the violence has waned since January. And although they continue to be affected by the discord in their country, the vast majority of runners have been able to leave Kenya for a few months in order to participate in races throughout the United States. While many of the Kenyans are already here, five of the runners will be flying directly from the capital city of Nairobi to compete at Bloomsday, Neill said.





Last year's winner, John Korir, grew up and continues to live several months a year in Kenya's Rift Valley. In the women's division, three of the top five finishers in 2007 were from Kenya, including the winner -- Edna Kiplagat, who made it across the finish line in 38:52. Another Kenyan athlete who competed at last year's Bloomsday and will return this May is Catherine Ndereba, a two-time world champion who won the silver medal in the marathon at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Ndereba, who was trapped in her home for a week during the unrest, declined to be interviewed about the chaos that has torn Kenya apart.





"It just hurts her to talk about it," says Ndereba's manager, Lisa Buster of Promotion in Motion International, Ltd. "She finds it very painful that something like that could happen in her own country."


Others who may not have experienced the violence first-hand in Eldoret and other cities also were affected because roads were blocked by armed gangs. Travel to Nairobi became virtually impossible, according to Kigen, who had to miss an appointment at the U.S. embassy during the height of the unrest. Until February, many couldn't reach the airport in order to catch flights to the United States and other parts of the world.





"Their lives are about running and training and this has disrupted that," says Scott Robinson, president of the AmeriKenyan Running Club, a New Mexico-based organization that manages elite athletes. "It's affected them physically, spiritually and emotionally."





The running club, which was established by Robinson and his wife, Vanessa Robinson, has helped about 20 Kenyans in the last few years with obtaining visas as well as other needs in order to allow the athletes to focus on training. Since their arrival in the United States, the Kenyan runners have received tremendous support from other athletes, organizations and the people who live in the cities where races have taken place, said Robinson.





After all they've been through in their homeland, "the athletes have a desire to work even harder and to perform even better," he says. "They are proud of their country and their heritage and want the world to see beyond the recent events that have taken place in Kenya."





Chirchir misses her family, she said, but she has tried to focus on her running -- training at high altitude, doing speedwork and sometimes running twice a day with other Kenyan athletes in Santa Fe.





"I'm looking forward to the race," said Chirchir, who will fly back home to Kenya on May 10. "I hope to run very well."





Other runners from Eldoret and other parts of Kenya share her aspirations.





"The course is very challenging with those hills," said Maiyo, who placed 13th last year and has been traveling to the United States to race since 2003. "My plan is to come and run well in Bloomsday because I love the people there and I love the race."





-- VIRGINIA DE LEON





STREET MUSICIANS & amp; VULTURES


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & here's no question that Bloomsday can be a trying experience for anyone. The burning lungs. The tight quads. The shin splints.





The finger cramps.





Running, walking, or wheeling Bloomsday is tough. But try playing Bloomsday. Performers along the course play three-hour sets of nothing but up-beat, pump-you-up music without a break. And they do it with smiles on their faces (which is more than we can say for most of those svelte Kenyans). Of course, most of the musicians don't need oxygen at the end of the race, and they get some of the best seats along the whole route.





We asked a handful of these Bloomsday veterans to talk about the mirth, madness and pandemonium they've observed on the course over the years.





Milton Asher, Bluegrass Conspiracy


Broadway Avenue and Cochran Street


"The funniest things we've seen are just the way that some people adorn themselves," says Milton Asher, who plays lead guitar and mandolin for the five-piece bluegrass and Americana outfit known as Bluegrass Conspiracy. "We've seen people with artificial plastic buttocks on their jogging shorts, people wearing business suits and carrying briefcases. One year we saw a couple in wedding garb." Asher says the costumes are the biggest highlights of their sets, which include blistering bluegrass instrumentals like "Rocky Top" and "Foggy Mountain Breakdown." In their fifth year, Asher says, they gotta keep the people moving.





Wayne Meredith, Good Ol' Stuff


Above High Bridge Park


"The noise," says Wayne Meredith, who performs as part of the two-piece, accordion-and-upright-bass duo Good Ol' Stuff. "I don't know how to describe it. It's kind of a dull roar of the shoes hitting the pavement. It is almost like you can feel it. It's just plain steady, and there's gobs of people." Meredith says that's what he remembers most. The rest is a little hazy. Even situated where they are -- halfway up the course's first hill -- he says the people are going by so fast, and there are so many of them, and they're so colorfully dressed, that it's hard to remember specific people and costumes. It's a sea of color. "We do see some of them, and some of them are great," he says. Still, it's the feeling that he remembers best. "The camaraderie and the general feeling engulfs you." He says most participants are nothing but smiles and raised thumbs. "One gal ran up and kissed me," he says. "She used to be my boss at St. Luke's." Meredith didn't say how Marian -- his wife -- felt about that one.





Paula Farmer, Sisters of Selket belly dancers


Summit Boulevard and Maxwell Avenue


Paula Farmer couldn't recall just one event but says she and her fellow belly dancers have, year after year, been entertained by the countless runners who dash by, lift up their shirts and try to do a belly roll. "People just running by and sneaking in a little dance or cheering us on," Farmer recalls, going into her fifth Bloomsday. "We've just had such a blast doing it."





Bill Robinson, "The Vulture"


Top of Doomsday Hill


We caught the famous Vulture of Doomsday Hill as he was re-gluing the attachment points for the bird's head. The president of marketing research firm Robinson Research, Bill Robinson has been striking fear into the oxygen-deprived hearts of runners from atop Bloomsday's most daunting hill for 20 years. Many of his clearer memories of the race, though, are about things that happened inside the costume. "I remember one year there were 30 mile-per-hour winds, and in a giant vulture costume, that's a lot of wind," he says. "One time I had a wiring harness in the vulture catch fire, but I managed to put it out and continue on." Other memories involve people's reactions to the costume. Many don't get it, or they don't understand what's inside, he says. Some assume it's several people standing on each other's shoulders. "[Or] people assume it's a balloon, and they feel it, and then they realize they're feeling a human leg." And while he notes that he's met the occasional miscreant ("There are 50 or 60,000 people -- you're gonna have a few who are behaviorally challenged"), the overwhelming majority have treated him well.





Robinson recalls several memories outside of the vulture, too. Like the expressions on the faces of the elite runners. "I always figured they would all look like gazelles, these graceful running machines. That is not at all true," he says. "Runners in the top few look as if they're going to throw up any second." He notes that the most impressive thing he ever saw was a young military group (most likely, students from Gonzaga's ROTC program) running in lock-step up the hill. "And then they would drop and count out push-ups and then jump right up and continue on without changing pace," he marvels. "You couldn't see they were out of breath at all."





-- JOEL SMITH





BAND LOCATIONS


Riverside Avenue at the Bloomsday office


Separate Jets (Classic Rock, '60s and '70s)





Riverside and Cannon


KuUmba (Drums)





The MAC


The JonnyForest (Indie Rock)





Riverside downhill


Accordion Joe (Accordion/Elvis)





Riverside and Clarke


WaggyPlank (Punk Rock)





Riverside uphill


Good Ol' Stuff (Accordion and Bass)





Riverside and Government Way


Firecreek (Country, Classic Rock)





Government Way and River Ridge


McGuire (Rock, Pop)





Government Way and Fort George Wright


Borderline (Rock, Pop)





Unitarian Universalist Church


Rhythm Envy (Precision Bucket Band)





Fort George Wright


Northwest Renaissance Festival (Theater)





Fort George Wright and Elliot


Spare Parts (Acoustic)





Bottom of Doomsday Hill


Small Town Nation (Punk Rock)





Top of Doomsday Hill


The Camp Stix Experience (Swing, Rhythm and Blues)





Mission and West Point


The Void Reclaimed (Christian Rock)





Summit and Maxwell


Sisters of Selket (Belly Dancing)





Lindeke and Sinto


Stranglers of Bombay (Classic Rock)





Lindeke and Gardner


Adriene Bousquet (Jazz Standards)





Lindeke and Dean


Last Chance (Rock)





Broadway and Cochran


Bluegrass Conspiracy (Americana)





Broadway at Dutch Jake's Mini-Park


Melvis and Loose Ends (Rock, Country)





Broadway Inn Tavern


Random Generation (Classic Rock)





Broadway and Oak


Michael Carpenter (Singer-Songwriter)





Broadway and Maple


Breanna Abell (Solo Artist)





Broadway and Adams


The Maxie Ray Mills Band (Acoustic, Rock)

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