by Bri Kilroy | photo courtesy of Fifth Third River Bank Run
One of the greatest springtime allures of our city blooms from the annual event that has attracted the community’s vicarious energy on the second Saturday of May for the past 41 years. The Fifth Third River Bank Run floods the length between Lyon and Michigan Street with masses of spectators, volunteers, supporters and those runners you have seen braving the elements of Michigan’s latest winter/spring salsa to condition themselves for this moment.
This staple running event started in 1978 as a singular 25-kilometer (15.5 miles) road race that narrowly appealed to those who felt like jogging that long. The 1,000 who participated in the premier event is impressive, but that figure is merely a fraction of the nearly 20,000 who register for the race now.
Fifth Third River Bank Run Event Director Sarah Laurent, and Operations Director Lauralee Mathieu have devoted decades to the event’s operation and growth, witnessing its transformation from a 25K primarily run by men into a race that “has something for everyone.” Both recall the initial addition of the 5K in 1991 along with how the blasé packet pick-up evolved into the Sports & Fitness Expo (May 11, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.) that features food samples, deals on running gear, photobooths and the last chance to register for the run.
The Fifth Third River Bank Run has been around long enough to gain an abundance of fans who endorse it as the platform they utilize to reach their goals. It is praised for spring-boarding runners to marathon distances, immersing strangers in a supportive atmosphere where everyone is rooting for one another and awarding finishers with a big shiny medal that screams, “I didn’t quit.”
After you cross the finish line and a volunteer graces you with that finisher’s medal, aim your cool-down walk to Calder Plaza for the Finish Fest. Here, you can revel in triumphant achievement while noshing on post-race fuel; visit the Buffalo Wild Wings food tent onsite; watch friends cross the finish line on the live-streaming Jumbotron; and, of course, stop by the beer and beverage tent that trades a victory beverage of your choice for the drink ticket attached to your bib. If your victory beverage of choice falls in the beer category, make sure you have your I.D.
Whether your 2018 goals are focused on getting healthier, being more active, embracing self care, challenging yourself or emerging from your comfort zone, the Fifth Third River Bank Run sets the stage for your achievement. Discover what has moved the community and sign up for what moves you at 53riverbankrun.com/participate.
I’ll see you on race day, Grand Rapids.
What: Fifth Third River Bank Run 5K, 10K & 25K
Where: Corner of Monroe Avenue and Lyon Street NW. Finish Fest at Calder Plaza.
When: May 12, 7 a.m.-2 p.m. (note different starting times)
• 5K Run: 7 a.m., 10K Run: 7:40 a.m.
• 25K Handcycle and Wheelchair Division: 8:15 a.m.
• 25K Run: 8:30 a.m.
• 5K Community Walk: 9 a.m.
Registration: $20-$95. Register at 53riverbankrun.com.