Bloomsday Serves Mutliple Purposes For Elite RunnersUpdated:
Ask any elite runner who is in Spokane for Bloomsday if they've seen the course and you will undoubtedly hear the same answer.
One runner: "Not yet. I think it's a little bit tough. We'll see tomorrow."
And another: "[I don't know] that much, actually. It's challenging, that's what I heard. It's the Bloomsday Hill? Or, Doomsday Hill?"
One would assume that top runners from out of town would drive the course, get to know the ascents and descents, and perhaps, come up with a game plan. If some do, they are not in the majority. But don't judge an athlete's motivation and drive from what could be seen as carelessness.
The elite runners who descend upon Spokane from all corners of the globe -- there have been representatives from Kenya, Ethiopia, Romania, Poland, New Zealand, Ukraine, Australia, Mexico and Morocco, among others -- to participate in Bloomsday have specific reasons for coming to Eastern Washington.
The race does pay for travel expenses for elite runners and the top finishers receive monetary prizes, but the money isn't as much as other races. What brings the big names in running to Bloomsday is the tenacity of Jon Neill, who recruits runners, and maybe more importantly, the praise of past participants.
"One of my best friends went to school in Washington State --Bernard Legat," said four-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman. "He's a great friend of mine, he's a training partner. He's the one who told me about the race."
While a race like Bloomsday doesn't provide a big payday or tremendous prestige, it does serve an important purpose. For runners that are training for events like the Olympics and World Championships, these races are imperative.
"This kind of small race … keep me strong to participate in Olympics," said five-time Olympian Lidia Simon of Romania. "It's really important for me to be in this race. I'm looking for my sixth Olympics and I have to do something [until] that time.
"I decide not to run too many marathons ‘til 2016, then I have to run some race. Specific in my age, I have to do shorter one to give me more energetic and power."