By ERIC PLUMMER
SANDPOINT — A pair of stellar finishes were turned in by Sandpoint runners recently at Bloomsday in Spokane, when both Richard and Camille Neuder were the top finishers for their exact ages, and fourth in their respective age groups, no small feat in a race that often boasts more than 40,000 participants.
It’s hard to say which performance was the most amazing: Camille, 14, clocking a 58.09 to break an hour in her seventh Bloomsday, or grandpa Richard, 75 years her senior, finishing his 31st Bloomsday in 1:53.31.
Both finished high enough to earn “second seed” positions for next year’s race, which are awarded to the top five finishers in each age group.
Richard is happy to advance into the 90-94 year old division, where he will be one of the young pups and favorites to win his class, while Camille is already looking forward to improving on this year’s finish, where she met her goal of breaking an hour.
“We can both start in the second seed next year. The elites go, then you go,” described Camille, who runs distance races for the Sandpoint Middle School track team. “Next year I want to drop a couple of minutes and get closer to 50 (minutes).”
Last year’s race had a rotten ending, when Richard fell about 10 feet short of the finish line and suffered a nasty broken knuckle, eventually ending up in the hospital.
After a couple of minutes on the ground, a nurse eventually carried his bib across the line, and he still finished second in his incredibly hearty octogenarian age group. The episode led to the family creating a T-shirt for its running patriarch, which states “If found on the ground, please drag over the finish line.”
Richard didn’t need any help at the finish this year, crossing the line with his daughter Elizabeth Neuder, 49, who along with husband Steve Neuder, 54, gave the family three generations pounding the pavement. Ever the mother, she was just pleased nobody was injured this time around.
“I’m just happy we all made it safely across the finish line,” said Elizabeth, noting other family members from Oregon and Washington join in the fun each year.
“I love the family re-union it’s turned into. It’s cool for these guys to be first for their ages.”
Steve recalled his first Bloomsday with his dad in 1994, when he learned the value of setting the right pace. Richard used to clock in at just over an hour in his early 60s, and Steve found out the hard way that there is no substitute for proper training.
Steve finished this year’s 12K race in 1:57.34, and he has long since quit trying to keep up with pops.
“The first time I did it, I tried to keep up with him and that nearly killed me,” recalled Steve. “He runs everyday, and I never run. I’ve never beat him.”
Richard is nothing if not a creature of habit, and that includes running nearly every day. Even in the dead of winter, it takes a lot more than snow or ice to stop him.
“I usually wear cleats on the ice,” admitted Richard, who credits running with his vitality. “That’s why I’m still here. One and a half miles, five days a week, year round.”
Steve said his dad claims to put in the same amount of effort as he ever has, but it simply takes him longer to cover a distance. That a soon-to-be 90-year-old can still crank out a 7.46-mile run is motivation for his entire family.
“He’s inspired the whole crowd. Regardless of how fast you’re going, if you make it through, it’s a helpful milestone to say ‘I can still do this,’” claimed Steve. “It’s cool that Elizabeth and Dad were there for each other. Nobody’s been able to keep up with him in the family.”
Richard said he refuses to set any goal for how many more times he’ll run the popular Spokane road race, but admits it will be nice to be the young guy next year in the 90-94 age group.
“I always say ‘by golly, this is the last one I’ll ever do,’” he said. “I’ll do it as long as my legs will carry me.”