Entry Fee: $17.00
Prize Money: $98
Location: Spokane, Washington
The Lilac Bloomsday Run was born during the running boom that swept the nation in the late 1970s. Local runner Don Kardong, who moved to Spokane in 1974, competed in several national class road races before and after his participation in the 1976 Olympic Marathon, and in the fall of 1976 he suggested to a local reporter that Spokane should have a downtown run of its own. The suggestion made its way into the newspaper's headlines.
Spokane was enjoying renewed interest in its downtown area after hosting the 1974 World's Fair (Expo '74), and a fun run that took advantage of the newly renovated downtown and Riverfront Park seemed a natural fit. Spokane Mayor David Rodgers encouraged Kardong to pursue the idea, the local Jaycees adopted it as a project, and Medical Service Corporation (now Premera) joined as the event's major sponsor, supplying financial support and organizational expertise.
At 1:30 p.m., on May 1, 1977, over a thousand runners participated in the inaugural Bloomsday Run, which was billed "Run With the Stars" in posters announcing the event. Olympic gold and silver medalist Frank Shorter crossed the line first, followed by Herm Atkins of Seattle and founder Kardong.
The success of the first year's race led to an even greater turnout in 1978. Publicity generated by a sanctioning dispute with local AAU officials also helped the race expand to over 5,000 runners. By its second year, Bloomsday was already enormous by any standard, and a victory by Boston's Bill Rodgers helped spread the event's national reputation.
In subsequent years the Bloomsday field continued to grow, reaching 57,300 in 1988 before leveling off for two years. In 1991, Bloomsday took another jump to 60,104, and in 1996 the event reached its all-time high of 61,298.