By Mary Jantsch
Class of 2013
SPOKANE, Wash. – For Gonzaga University students, this coming Sunday (May 6) marks more than the last day to study for finals week. It also represents the 36th annual Lilac Bloomsday Run, a 12-kilometer (7.46 miles) event launched here in 1977 by former Olympics Marathon runner Don Kardong.
The Lilac Bloomsday Run draws its name from Spokane’s nickname, “The Lilac City,” and Bloomsday, a celebration held annually on June 16 since 1954 to mark events of Irish writer James Joyce’s famous novel “Ulysses.” The word Bloomsday derives from Leopold Bloom, the fictional protagonist and hero of “Ulysses,” who experiences a contemporary odyssey in Dublin on June 16, 1904.
Kardong says the Bloomsday run offers runners and walkers an odyssey through the Lilac City, similar to the plot of Joyce’s “Ulysses,” which is structured based on “The Odyssey,” one of two major ancient Greek epic poems by Homer (the other being the “The Illiad”). The poem focuses on the Greek hero Odysseus (known as Ulysses in Roman myth) and his journey home after the fall of Troy.
The Lilac Bloomsday Run has become popular among Gonzaga’s students, something many consider an essential experience before graduating.
Kardong moved to Spokane in 1974 and competed in several national-class road races before and after placing fourth in the 1976 Olympics marathon. Kardong mentioned his idea of a downtown Spokane run to a local reporter, almost as an afterthought, and the idea took off.
Kardong spoke April 17 at Gonzaga and shared his insights on running and his experiences and journey with the Lilac Bloomsday Run. Click the video icon below to watch Kardong’s advice and comments about this iconic Spokane event, along with insights and advice from Gonzaga student-runners.
All Bloomsday runners are invited to stop for water at the Gonzaga-sponsored water station, which celebrates the University’s 125th anniversary and Gonzaga’s historic involvement in the community.