by Michael Bowen

When you're chugging up Doomsday or trying to hang on during the homestretch on Broadway, aren't you a little curious about the runner next to you? How much has she trained? Can I put on a surge and drop her, or is she getting ready to put me in her dust? Out of all the tens of thousands of Bloomies, how and why did I end up next to this particular individual? How did he get here? And how many miles a week was he putting in back in December or January, back when it was cold?

From strollers to elites, from elderly to young ... here's a smattering of how-to-get-ready strategies from a variety of Bloomies.


33, fitness and health teacher at Sacajawea Middle School

Jayne McLaughlin, who teaches at Sacajawea and has coached girls' cross country at Lewis and Clark High -- she's also the busy mother of an infant girl -- actually uses her lunch break to do speed work. She reports doing "five 1,000s [meters] at six-minute-mile pace, on the track at Hart Field" -- though she'll mix in 400s and 800s just to avoid boredom. "It depends on how my legs feel. If I need increased speed in my legs, I'll do 400s. If I need more endurance, I'll do 1,000s."

After moving here from Worcestershire, England, McLaughlin ran her first Bloomsday in 1997. "My husband wasn't a runner, but he started -- to woo me, I suppose," she laughs. When he ran 50 minutes in '96 and she failed to beat his time in '97, she was "totally determined and ready, completely in shape" for '98, but a hot year did her in at the top of Doomsday: She "collapsed of heatstroke," was treated and then pushed in a wheelchair to the finish area, where the nurses allowed her to step off and walk across the line in 2:42.

McLaughlin attributes the big improvement in her times to having started speed work on the track in '98 with the Bloomsday Road Runners Club. But "Now that I have a baby, I can't be obsessed with it," she says. She fits in workouts when she can -- usually during her lunch breaks at Sacajawea.


59, Soap Lake, Wash.; leader of the Doomsday Dollies

"We're the ones in the giant red lips," says Karen Lowther. "This will be our seventh year -- but we didn't start out with costumes.

"It all started with my best friend and my sister -- we're all from Soap Lake -- and then we met some people at a hotel the night before the race -- this was about four years ago, and now there's two of us from Spokane, two from Bremerton and two from Seattle. So there might be as many as nine of us this year. We're going wear the red lips again this year, but we're going to do our hair differently, with little rubber bands and clippies and things.

"You know those little snake things, made of foam rubber, that they use to hold kids up in pools? Well, we got some really skinny ones, and we wrap them around our necks, and then we hold them up in case any of us get lost. We sort of walk-run it, so we'll finish anywhere from 90 minutes to two hours."

How has training been going for the Doomsday Dollies?

"Well, we kinda slacked off this year," Lowther admits. "Most of us belong to a gym, so ... I guess, just hit the treadmill hard. I wasn't especially sore last year, but boy, that first year...."

What's the visibility while wearing those hot lips, Karen?

"You can see fine, but it's hard to talk or breathe," she laughs. "You have to kind of breathe through your nose."


61, EWU professor of chemistry, age-group record-holder

In 2004, among 60- to 64-year-old men, Jeff Corkill was the fastest at Bloomsday, winning in 44:58 and setting a record for that age group in the process; he also holds the age-group record of 39:44 for men (ages 50-54), which he set in 1994.

Corkill runs three days a week, rides his mountain bike for about an hour twice a week, and goes on a 90-minute road bike ride once a week.

"I try not to run at race pace -- which for me is about six minutes a mile -- but I try to run 6:30s, 6:45s when I do my run," Corkill says. "On weekends, I'll do a long run of 11 or 12 miles. Do you know the trails off of High Drive? During the week -- it's become a bit of a good-luck charm for me, and I organized a 10K race there, so I have a trail -- it's fun just to get off the road. I can't run lots of miles anymore or I get injured -- so I do about 30 miles a week now. Having run "about 20" Bloomsdays, clearly Corkill will be aiming at lowering his age-group record even further.


64, retired crane operator; finished Bloomsday last year in 39,694th place and next-to-last in a time of 4 hours, 19 minutes and 56 seconds

Crane operator -- is that a dangerous job?

"It is for the people on the floor," says Eugene Hedine. Then, realizing how that sounds, he laughs. He's also sort of amused by his 2004 Bloomsday performance, but plans on doing better this year.

"I train all the time -- I walk everywhere I go," he says. "I want to try to make it this year in -- oh, let's see -- about two hours."

That would be quite an improvement.

But Hedine's in training: "On Sundays," he says, "I walk to St. Anne's Catholic Church -- that's about two miles, takes me 45 minutes."

So is getting ready for Bloomsday his main motivation for doing all this walking?

"Well, I got bone diseases," says Hedine. "I've got to keep my diabetes down. I've got pain all the time -- so I gotta keep moving, keep walking all the time. It tires me out."

Hedine does Bloomsday "just for my own amusement," he says. "I like people." He'll be walking "just on my own" on Sunday, hoping to record a 2-hour-and-20-minute improvement on his 2004 time.

Which is more than the rest of us can hope for.


owner of the Brickwall Comedy Club; running "Bloomsday" somewhere in Baghdad

Warren, a standup comedian, was asked by the Texas National Guard to join a media tour as the sole performer -- the purpose being to carry video footage to and from Texans in Baghdad to their loved ones back home. The tour dates conflicted with Bloomsday -- and having run three years in a row, Warren, who's fortysomething, didn't want to break his streak -- as he says, "I want my T-shirt, man!" If he set up a 7.5-mile course on some military base near Baghdad (security considerations prevent him from revealing exactly which one) on May 1 and ran, would the Bloomsday board give him his T-shirt? Yes, they would. (They even gave him an official race number -- 51,305 -- from last year.)

Last week, on his second visit to the Middle East during the current war, when Warren stepped outside the Kuwait City airport terminal, it was 105 degrees. After giving a comedy show to 300 military personnel at the Ali Al-Salem Air Base in Kuwait, Warren is on his way to Tikrit, Falluja, Tallil and Baghdad -- "I just can't say when."

In 2002, says Warren, "I couldn't run half a mile without stopping." But gradually he built up his distance until he felt he could finish Bloomsday. Now he's run three in a row -- and wasn't about to let a little trip to Baghdad get in the way of making it four consecutive races. Because he usually trains at a 10-minute-per-mile pace, Warren is hoping this will be the year he finally breaks the 75-minute barrier for Bloomsday's 7.5-mile length.

As you commute to your favorite pre-race parking spot, remember this: Warren will be traveling to his Iraqi version of Bloomsday via military convoy. The captain in charge reports that "the road to Baghdad is pretty hot right now, with increasing activity ... everything from humvee rollovers to insurgent attacks."


14, 8th-grader at Northwood Middle School

Steven Kutsch is one of the best middle-school runners in Spokane. At Bloomsday last year, he ran 48:48 and placed third among 13- to 15-year-old boys.

Doesn't it bother him, then, that last year, the fastest girl in his age group, Katrina Drennan, beat him by 10 seconds?

"Um, that Bloomsday I bruised my heel about mile five," says Kutsch, seriously. "I was wearing a really light pair of racing flats that didn't give me much support. But what was making me go slow was not only the heel bruise, but because I went out in about 5:40 for my first mile, when I should have done about a 6:30."

Making sure not to go out too fast is important.

"I know, and that's my goal every year, but the excitement and the adrenalin take over every time."

Kutsch has been running for both school and club track teams since he was in the third grade. A typical workout for his club team, the Spokane Mercury, is a mile and a half warm-up and cool-down, sandwiched around six 200-meter intervals "in the low 30s, high 20s" [seconds] with a slow 200-meter jog in between.

Kutsch, who runs "about 15, 20 miles a week" and who also cross-country skis and plays soccer, has "made it to nationals before" and plans to return to national meets this year, competing again in the 1,500m and 3,000m events in Indianapolis and Knoxville, Tenn.

He plans nearly a four-minute improvement in his Bloomsday time this year: "I'm hoping to break 45 [minutes]," he says. Just a couple of days before a recent surgery on his sinuses -- his breathing is still not entirely recovered -- he ran the Bloomsday course in the reverse direction from the official race. With his mother tagging along on her bike, he completed the course in "about 46" minutes.


33, Worley, Idaho; works on legislative staff for the Coeur d'Alene Tribe; mom with stroller

"After running it for years, I was a first-time walker last year," says Elva Allen, who pushed her then-7-month-old daughter Sophia in the 2004 event. "I just thought it would be fun, because my friend and I both had babies around the same time -- and it was fun, but we found out that babies don't like to stay in the strollers. I had to get her out and carry her" from just past Doomsday almost to the end, "and I thought, 'I'm not gonna make it.' I almost passed out."

"But there's a lot of people -- when you're so used to running, there's a whole other part of the race that you never see -- people just enjoying themselves on the side of the road," Allen says. "We had to stop and nurse our kids, and there were other mothers there, and they knew what we were doing. We sort of had to shade ourselves, and people would come by and say nice things -- it was cool, really."

This year, Allen knows how to prepare for the strolling experience: more toys for Sophia, more rest breaks for herself. And will her friend be strolling again this year? "No, she's pregnant again, so I'm dragging my husband with me." All three Allens have been training: "We've been taking walks -- nowhere near seven miles -- but we'll probably finish around two and half, three hours again."


17, junior at Spokane Valley High School, costumed crazy

Amanda Palmen runs Bloomsday with her cousin, Brianna Brown, 15, who goes to Ferris.

"We wear wigs -- did you see our picture in the paper last year? -- and they're all different colors. We got them at Value Village right before the race last year.

"We collect and wear everything -- Spandex, cheerleading skirts. We go to Goodwill. And then if it gets too hot, we take it off, and that's why we dress in layers.

"We just want to be noticed and have a really good time."

And that's not all that Palmen is up to during Bloomsday. "I have a business," she reports. "I sell weight loss and energy tablets, and I'll be selling them during the race by the tablet for $2."

Sounds expensive.

"I know, but I've gotta make my profit on what they cost me," says Palmen. "After you take one, you'll feel like running a 100 miles per hour.

What's in these tablets?

"Oh, vitamins, minerals and 75 grams of caffeine. Just pop it in your water bottle -- it tastes like orange or lemon -- and you'll be ready to go."

And not only will Palmen and Brown have an energy boost on their side, but they've been in training, too. Bloomsday took them two hours last year, says Palmen, "but I've been going to the gym, so say an hour and a half this year.

"I've been doing the treadmill for 30 minutes, and then I'll probably go out on the track and run a mile or so. Brianna, she doesn't go to the gym as much as I do, but then she's a skinny-mini, and I have a bad knee."

All that caffeine ought to ease her pain.


50, 15-time double Bloomie

Susan Collins has run Bloomsday every year since 1981 except for 1984, when she went into labor; every year since 1990 -- that's 15 straight years -- she has run the course twice.

"Kardong said that being in labor was no excuse," she laughs.

So why switch from normal behavior (running Bloomsday) to abnormal behavior (doing two circuits in one day)?

"Well, in 1990, I was getting ready for my first marathon" -- she has since run 25 of them -- "and I thought, this is an ideal pre-marathon training situation: You've got all the support I need, aid stations -- it's just a matter of doing the extra miles," she says.

Just a simple matter of adding seven and a half more miles, that's all.

"I go for speed the first circuit," says Collins. She usually finishes in 60 to 65 minutes, then continues on through the T-shirt chutes, grabs a drink of water and keeps on going. She registers twice and gets two official times along with two T-shirts. "I slow down -- my total time is about 2:30, so I slow down a lot on the second lap," she says.

Collins often runs with Jim Destefano, who always runs it twice and often three times -- "He's triple-lapped it seven or eight times," says Collins. "Oh, he's wacko. He's an electrician, and he's been shocked too many times." She laughs. "He's intense, but he's a great guy. We start the Coeur d'Alene and Spokane Series marathons together, and depending who's in better shape, we see who wins."

So what's it like going around the second time? "You start to hit a few stragglers around mile two, and then on Cemetery Hill, all the strollers and walkers. So I start to zigzag around people."

Collins carries water and Gatorade in a fanny pack and consumes a lot of Power Gel.

One year she attempted to triple-lap the course with Destefano, "but I did double caffeine, and that was a mistake. I got all dehydrated." Destefano told her to sit down halfway through the third lap "by the college, and the grass looked so soft, so I did. Then he told some lady -- I didn't even know her -- to drive back and pick me up."

Any soreness after double-dipping Bloomsday?

"None. Must be that Scandinavian upbringing."

How does somebody train to run two Bloomsdays?

"In previous years, I would run four to five times a week, three to eight miles," Collins says. "But I learned a long time ago that you can kill yourself by doing too much and then getting injured. I've run enough marathons to know that you don't have to put in tons of miles just to finish -- I'm a four- to five-hour marathoner, depending on what's going on in my life.

"This year, I'm not training like I should."

But runners always say that.

"But I'm really not. Like yesterday, I did about a seven- or eight-miler, but then I'm taking today off, and tomorrow I'll do another seven-miler. Then early in the week, I'll get several three- and four-milers in before the race."

What kind of pace?

"That depends on how fast the dog runs. I've had to pick my pace up ever since we got this Doberman -- I think he has a little greyhound in him. Two years ago, the dog we had was older and slower. But I'm not trying to kill myself -- I usually run at a nine-minute pace. I'll do marathons at an 11- or 12-minute pace."

For Susan Collins, 15-mile runs go a lot quicker than that.


45, dentist, lives in Liberty Lake, works in Spokane Valley; double Bloomie

This will be Jim Psomas' 15th Bloomsday, his 12th time running it twice in one day. He did his first double-dip sometime in the early '90s as a training run for a marathon, "because it's good support, high energy."

"The first time through, I just run my pace, hope to run anywhere from 50 to 60 minutes," says Psomas. "The second time -- well, it's slower. I do about two and a half, three hours overall. The second lap is more of a fun run, dodging all the walkers and strollers."

Like other double Bloomies, he registers twice and picks up two T-shirts -- but unlike some others, he actually goes through the T-shirt lines after his first lap and collects his first shirt. "I try to conceal it, so all the walkers and strollers won't see it," he says. "My family meets me somewhere around the last two miles on my second lap, and we walk-jog it in from there."

How's training going?

"I used to run every day, but not any more," Psomas says. "I make sure to get in one 10-mile run every week, just to keep my base -- because from there, you're staying in marathon shape. Now, I run three shorter runs of five or six miles, and then the one 10-miler -- so about 25 miles a week, yeah -- but I also do an hour on the stationary bike, every day, seven days a week."


13, Tekoa, Wash.; junior wheelchair champion

"I was in a car wreck when I was in kindergarten, and I was paralyzed," says Susannah Scaroni, who took second place among all female wheelers at Bloomsday last year with a time of 52:13. Scaroni has also competed in Atlanta's Peachtree 10K and three times at junior nationals -- twice in Connecticut, once in Arizona -- where she competes in every distance on the track from 100m to 1,500m.

She aims to go under 49 minutes at Bloomsday this year.

"Every week, I go to track practice at Tekoa. We don't have a track, but I go around the school about 12 times. I just got a speedometer," she says, excitedly.

How does someone get started in wheelchair racing?

"My coach, Teresa Skinner, found out about me and wanted me on the team -- Team St. Luke." Kids in wheelchairs, it turns out, can compete not only in track events, but in all the field events as well, along with even table tennis and weightlifting.

Scaroni, who trains in her chair "about 10 hours a week," likes the Bloomsday course, "even though some people don't like it, because it's so hilly."

She especially likes the downhills. On a Bloomsday training ride last week, she says, "going down that first hill" on Riverside Avenue, "I got going 27 miles per hour." You could hear the excitement in her voice.


55, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan

You think Bloomsday doesn't have global appeal? Ambassador Crocker will be a Bloomie this year.

OK, so he was born in Spokane, graduated from Whitman College, and his mother lives in Spokane Valley. Still, this is a man who has ascended to the pinnacle of the Foreign Service -- the rank of Career Ambassador -- having been appointed by three presidents (both Bushes and Clinton) as ambassador to Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria and now Pakistan.

Turns out he's a foreign agent on the run -- good enough to have completed March's Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach, Va., in three hours and 56 minutes.

In Islamabad, says Crocker, "because of the security environment, I am pretty much restricted to running on the embassy compound." He runs an hour a day, six days a week. "Every few weeks," he adds, "the Marines who guard the embassy and I go out to run some real hills -- a 6.5-mile route that climbs 1,800 feet."

You think Doomsday on a warm day is tough? Crocker had to run the grounds of the Republican Palace at 4:30 am Baghdad time because of the heat, picking up spent shells from the night before. In 1999, running in a 10K in Syria sponsored by UN peacekeeping troops, he ran the final 7K into a 40 mph headwind and up a 2,250-foot hill. In April 1983, he ran the very first Beirut Marathon; the next day, the American embassy was blown up.

What is Ambassador Crocker's plan for running in 2005 in the exotic outpost of Spokane, Wash.? To complete Bloomsday in under an hour.

As for Osama bin Laden, rumored to be hiding out in Pakistan -- he could run, but Crocker would catch him.

Publication date: 04/28/05

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About The Author

Michael Bowen

Michael Bowen is a former senior writer for The Inlander and a respected local theater critic. He also covers literature, jazz and classical music, and art, among other things.