Michigan’s #1 Premier Road Race
Fifth-Third River Bank Run- Grand Rapids, Michigan
For those of you who are runners living in Northeast Wisconsin, many of you probably haven’t ventured out of the area to run a road race. Every winter/spring many of you probably train for the Cellcom full or half marathon. During summer you probably sprinkle in some 5k’s and 10k’s leading up to the Fox Cities Full or Half Marathon. If you are looking to spice up your running by adding some races to your mix, look no further than the Fifth-Third River Bank Run in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In my opinion, Michigan’s #1 road race!
The River Bank Run has been a mainstay in the Michigan running community for 37 years. Held in early May, the race is usually the perfect temperature to run in, not too cold and not too warm. The race was first held in 1978 and today draws over 22,000 participants from all around the world. It is the largest 25K in the nation, and is the host for the US Open and Masters 25K Championship since 1995. It also features a 25K Wheelchair Racing Division, which is the only one in the World. It has seen the likes of Bill Rodgers, Herb Lindsay, and Greg Meyer on the men’s side. On the women’s side Joan Samuelson, Kim Jones, and Molly Pritz have also rann the race. It has a stellar international field as well. Consistently ranked as one of the premier road racing events in the United States, the Fifth Third River Bank Run is site of the Men’s 25K American record (1:14:18; 2013); Women’s 25K American record (1:24:36; 2012), former Men’s 25K World record (1998) and Men’s 25K Wheelchair Racing Division World record (2003).
By car, you can get to Grand Rapids from the Fox Valley in six to seven hours, depending on how often you stop. You can easily make a weekend trip out of it! Grand Rapids is big enough where you have a mid-size city feel, but not big enough where you feel overwhelmed like you would in Chicago or New York. There are plenty of restaurants and shops, as well as a vibrant nightlife. So there is plenty to do, besides race. But let’s be honest, you are not going travel six hours unless it is a great race, which it is!
The charm of the race comes with the distance. It is not your standard Half-Marathon Distance, it is a 25K (15.5 miles). It is amazing how challenging those extra 2.3 miles can feel if you are used to racing half marathons! This challenging course is far from flat. It starts downtown and follows the Grand River through some parks and paved trails, with the last 3rd of the race having some “slight” inclines, and finishing back downtown. And of course, you get an awesome finisher medal at the end with food and drinks to be had!
Another unique feature to the race is the 2 hour club, which you become a part of if you finish the race in 2 hours (exactly) or under, which is a 7:43/mile pace. If you decide to race the following year you get treated like an elite athlete, which many races don’t provide. You get toe-line right behind the elite athletes, your own warm up area, private gear check, refreshments prior to the 25K, and a finisher gift! It is incentives like this that make it one of the best races in the nation!
As previously mentioned, if you are looking for a new race, take a close look at the 5/3rd River Bank Run! It is a “big” race, but with a mid-size city feel. You get the best of both worlds! You also get to race a distance that you’ve most likely not had the opportunity to ever run, and challenge your body in a different way.
We hope to see you there in May!
-The Run Away Guy
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