Raised in Pullman, 45-year-old Jon Neill first fell in love with Spokane and its "running culture" when he was an undergrad at Gonzaga University, running on the college track and cross country teams and meeting Bloomday founder Don Kardong. Now he's the new Bloomsday race director after over a decade of involvement with the Spokane tradition. Here's a snippet of his vision for the future, with a couple running tips.
Bloomsday's attendance is declining, but Neill's got plans for that
The 2019 Bloomsday race saw just over 38,500 participants — compared with the event's peak attendance of roughly 61,200 in 1997. But Neill says this isn't cause for concern, arguing it could very well be an abnormality and not a trend.
"It's something we have our eye on. And certainly, we are always cognizant of what our participation numbers are," Neill says. "There's times when we have an uptick of 3,000-5,000 [people] and there's years like this year where there's a slight downtick."
Building the Bloomsday experience
They're also planning to diversify the Bloomsday programming to make it more attractive for prospective runners. For instance, they're working on creating an outdoor music festival following the race with a headline band, as well as boosting the offerings at the trade show and expo and making sure they have quality bands along the race course for the "best entertainment."
"Those are things that we're looking to do to enhance the experience," he says.
But despite planned changes, Neill is a firm believer in the important role that Bloomsday plays in the broader community: "Bloomsday continues to be one of Spokane's great traditions."
Three other classic Spokane runs
Besides Bloomsday, Neill points to the stretch of the Centennial Trail between Gonzaga and downtown as a personal favorite. "This trail and the Don Kardong Bridge are city treasures," he says. He also loves running from Cannon Hill Park up to Hart Field, mostly along Manito Boulevard: "The cobblestones, tree canopies and historic homes... reminds you why Spokane is the perfect place to live." Finally, there's the loop around Kendall Yards and Peaceful Valley, from the Monroe Street Bridge to Sandifur Bridge. "The descent down into Peaceful Valley is the old Bloomsday course," Neill adds. "Always reminds me of my first Bloomsday!"