by Bri Kilroy
May 12 is elusive enough to pass as irrelevant, but for those who made 2018 the year they would conquer the Fifth Third River Bank Run, training begins now. Luckily, registering to participate in the most populated 25K in the country puts you in a motivated, health-driven community who are all thinking the same thing: I hate running in the winter.
There is not a lot about the blistering cold, frozen feet and the opportunity to slip on a patch of ice that appeals to runners at any level; however, River Bank Run’s monthly training runs counteract hesitation with an invitation to surround yourself with encouragement, to experience the Grand Rapids running community and replenish with savory snacks, appetizers, conversation and, of course, beer.
“It’s an opportunity to get caught up in the excitement,” River Bank Run Operations Director, Lauralee Mathieu, said. “They’re getting a taste of it by joining us [at the training runs].”
Three community training runs occur each month leading to race day in May and diversify from one another enough to fit everyone’s personal training schedule and method of motivation. Which one gets you lacing up your running shoes?
Saturday Community Training Runs
The first Saturday of each month (January 6 this month, 8 a.m.) invites runners to meet at the David D. Hunting YMCA (475 Lake Michigan Dr.) and kick off the morning with a public training run that follows pieces of River Bank Run’s course. To start, a 3-mile course is suggested for beginners and a 7-mile course for experienced runners. Distances increase over the following months and, as your stamina strengthens, your legs will adjust to the boosted mileage.
Self-serve aid stations are peppered throughout the course to keep runners hydrated and, when you need further incentive to keep your legs moving toward the finish, you can count on a spread of revitalizing snacks, hot cocoa, water and breakfast carbs awaiting your return to the YMCA. Stick around to chat with River Bank Run veterans and newcomers about goals, training, tips and whatever else may have crossed your mind during your morning romp along the river.
Perrin “No Problems” Training Series
The second Tuesday of each month (January 9, 6 p.m.) offers an option for the evening social-seeking athletes that like to top their run off with a pint and mouthwatering appetizers from Perrin Brewing Company (5910 Comstock Park Dr. off 7 Mile). Perrin “No Problems” Training Series involves a 3-mile run through the industrial and suburban neighborhoods surrounding the local brewery followed by provided appetizers on Perrin’s heated patio.
Order yourself a post-run pint and mingle with other runners who commonly fancy a beer as a reward for their efforts. The casual atmosphere of the “No Problems” Training Runs and the 2-3-mile distance options serve as a perfect entrance to the community training series for those who find joining a herd of perceived running experts intimidating. Plus, you get to end the run with beer and banter, so it’s more like “going out” rather than “working out.” The “No Problems” Training Series has a rewards program where loyal participants can earn prizes for their monthly attendance. Bring a friend along to reap even more benefits.
Hills & Hops with Greg Meyer
Training isn’t complete without a change of pace or, in this case, a change of altitude. The final Wednesday of each month (coming up January 31, 6 p.m.) gives the community a chance to experience hill training, and cushions the daunting challenge with an invitation to enjoy drinks and eats afterwards. Runners gather at John Ball Park’s south parking lot to meet up with 7-time River Bank Run 25K winner, Greg Meyer, who pumps energy levels with a short pep-talk before taking the herd on a short warm-up around
Reconvening at the foot of the 0.5-mile hill off Butterworth Street SW, attendees spend the next 45 minutes running or walking up and down the hill as many times as they can with Meyer observing and offering tips with each passing jaunt (“pump your arms” and “keep your head up”). The camaraderie surrounding every grueling incline makes the second, fourth and sometimes seventh summit an encouraging urge to power through just one more. Post-hill replenishment comes from a local pub or restaurant agreed upon afterwards, where you can indulge in the fruits of your labor with a self-rewarded brew and appetizers provided by the River Bank Run.
The prospect of training when it is cold enough to utilize the outdoors as a second freezer makes it easy to put off your River Bank Run prep until it gets warmer, but the availability of monthly training opportunities revs the motivation to step outside and immerse yourself in a running community that overflows with everything you need to combat doubts that habitually leech onto ambitious goals. Along with fellow trainees, the 2018 River Bank Run Road Warriors are abundant at each event and motivated by their own running story they are happy to share with you as you embark on the journey that has attracted thousands since 1978.
To register for the Fifth Third River Bank Run and to find future monthly training opportunities, visit 53riverbankrun.com. I’ll see you on the course, Grand Rapids.
Monthly Training Opportunities
First Saturday of the month
What: Community Training Run
Where: David D. Hunting YMCA, 475 Lake Michigan Dr.
When: Jan. 6, Feb. 3, March 3, April 7 and May 5, 8 a.m.
Second Tuesday of the month
What: Perrin “No Problems” Training Series
Where: Perrin Brewing Company, 5910 Comstock Park Dr.
When: Jan. 9, Feb.13, March 13, April 10 and May 8, 6 p.m.
Last Wednesday of the month
What: Hills & Hopes Training Run
Where: John Ball Park, 1300 West Fulton St. (meet at south parking lot)
When: Jan. 31, Feb. 28, March 28 and April 25, 6 p.m.
Register at one of the registration events and get $5 off event fees and seize the chance to get a free training shirt by being one of the first 200 to register. After signing up, indulge in the pizza buffet provided by the River Bank Run team. You’re going to need your energy if you’re running that race.
When: 5-7 p.m.
Where: Craig’s Cruisers, 5730 Clyde Park Ave.
When: 5-7 p.m.
Where: Craig’s Cruisers, 651 Chicago Dr.