After three decades of relying on volunteers to tediously track over 1,140,000 finishers, Bloomsday organizers have revamped the race’s time tracking system by outfitting each participant with a computer chip that will record precisely how long it takes them to get from start to finish.

“This system is pretty widely used for marathons, but as far as I know, Bloomsday is the largest road race in the country to incorporate the chip for all racers,” said Race Director Don Kardong. “Our volunteers looked into a similar technology used in the Vancouver Sun Run and were confident that we could bring this innovation to Bloomsday,” he said.

The new system employs a computer chip about the size of a silver dollar that attaches to the ankle of each participant. When the chip crosses over a series of mats at the start, timing is initiated for that participant using radio frequency identification. Another series of mats at the finish record the finishing time, and a net time for the individual is computed. Using this system, delays getting to the start do not impact the time recorded for each finisher.

Bloomsday organizers think that entrants will be pleased with more accurate time tracking, which has been incorporated without a dramatic increase in the cost to race participants. “Adding this technology to Bloomsday could have really raised the price of the entry fee, but we just have so many great volunteers doing work that requires paid staff at other races that we were able to keep the price down,” said Kardong.

Other changes to this year’s race are also in the works. All racers will start on Riverside, and the finish line has been moved to the north end of the Monroe Street Bridge above the falls and closer to downtown and events in Riverfront Park.

Activities planned for the park on Saturday include live music, a Bloomsday Food Court, and “The World’s Largest Spaghetti Feed.”

Riverfront Park will also be the location of the Marmot March, a new, non-competitive 1.2-mile park tour for kids grade one and younger and their parents on the day before Bloomsday.

“We wanted to add as many events in the park as possible this year,” said Kardong “The Marmot March will be an especially fun event for people with kids that are too young to enter a race. The event includes a tour of the entire park with sports team mascots along the way.”

Online registration for Bloomsday ’06 is now open at www.bloomsdayrun.org, and printed entry brochures will soon be available at locations throughout the Inland Northwest. This issue of OTM even has an entry form on the inside front cover. The on-time entry fee is up a bit but this year but still a deal at $14.00. Mailed in entries must be postmarked by April 18 to avoid the late entry fee of $30.00. In addition, Gart Sports will be taking entry forms at their two local stores from now until the entry deadline of April 18.