One last lap: Bloomsday founder, Don Kardong, prepares for last race as director

One last lap: Bloomsday founder, Don Kardong, prepares for last race as director

We are less than one week away from Bloomsday 2019. Lilac Bloomsday Foundation said more than 36,350 runners, joggers, and walkers are already signed up to take on the 12k run on Sunday.

They expect an additional two to three thousand more people to sign up throughout the week leading up to the race.

For most of us, it’s the same sweaty run, but this race holds sentimental value. The man who founded the Bloomsday Race more than 40 years ago is retiring from the Bloomsday organization.Don Kardong organized, what was then, a community race. It’s since blossomed into the Spokane tradition we have today.

KXLY4 asked Kardong why he’s retiring, he simply said, it’s time. Though, Kardong said just because he’s retiring, it does not mean he’s done racing. You can still find him out on the course, but most likely not in the office.

When you think of Spokane, you think of Bloomsday. A warm and sunny spring day – runners, joggers, walkers who are all bringing their ‘A’ game for the steep climbs of the city.

It’s a package deal at Bloomsday. Thousands of runners, 7.46 miles, and the infamous love-hate relationship you’ve established with Doomsday Hill.

“It’s a beautiful course, it’s not an easy course, but it’s beautiful,” said Don Kardong, founder of Bloomsday.

When you think of Bloomsday, you might also think of this Kardong, Bloomsday’s father. All the excitement for one race day annually in the spring is because of him. The man who birthed the race in 1977.

“We ended up with a little over a thousand the first year – which doesn’t seem like very many, but it was huge based on what we thought we were going to get,” Kardong said.

The size of the race grew dramatically each year, turning a community run into a full-blown Spokane tradition.

“Next few we had 5,000 and then ten. It basically grew by about 5,000 a year for the next 10 years,” Kardong said.

In 1996, the race had more than 61,000 participants.

42 years since that first lap around town, Kardong is retiring. But not without every memory he’s made along the way.

“A lot of times when I stand at the finish line, which I sometimes do after I’m done and watch everybody come in. I just go – this is just amazing,” Kardong said.

When you think of Bloomsday, you think of Don Kardong. The man who started a race that became a tradition.

“I kind of look around and look back at how big a crowd that is, because I very often think – man, I didn’t envision this, but it’s pretty fun that I helped get it started,” Kardong said.

Kardong will pass the torch to Jon Neill as race director. Neill has a lengthy history with the race. In 1995, he was a Bloomsday intern while we was a student at Gonzaga University. Neill was on the board of directors, and he’s also the person who responsible for bringing back Junior Bloomsday.

A couple things to remember if you’re signed up for Bloomsday. Race check in is Friday and Saturday at the Spokane Convention Center. That’s where you’ll receive your race number. If you haven’t signed up yet, this is the first year Bloomsday is allowing people to register right up until 5:30 p.m. Saturday. You can either register at the trade show or online.

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