Thousands of eager runners gathered on Monroe Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids this morning for the start of the 44th annual Amway River Bank Run.
Eight hundred and ninety six days have elapsed since the last in-person River Bank Run, “so this is fantastic,” said Russ Hines, CEO of River Bank Run and Media. “We are so excited to see people back in downtown Grand Rapids.”
While the event generally attracts 12,000 to 15,000 runners, the field was about half that size this year. Organizers were pleased nonetheless.
In advance of the race, they touted limited touch points and lots of room for social distancing. All aspects of the race, including pick-up of registration packets, was done outdoors.
“This was our chance to get over the hump and show we can do this in a safe and smart manner,” said race director David Madiol. The 2020 race was entirely virtual. This year’s race was postponed from the traditional second Saturday in May.
Since 2018, Spectrum Health has been the official health partner and medical provider for the run. Nearly 60 providers from Spectrum Health Orthopedics were on hand to help any runner who needed assistance before, during or after the race. Another 50 Spectrum Health volunteers staffed hydration stations and helped in other ways.
The 5K runners started first around sunrise as the temperature eased into the mid-40s. In addition to the 5K, the River Bank Run features a 10K and 25K run, a 5K walk and 25K races for hand cyclists and wheelchair racers.
“The River Bank Run is always a great race for paracyclists,” said Steve Chapman, a Cedar Springs resident who has become a rock star among hand cyclists. He recently placed second in the Boston Marathon and also took second in this year’s River Bank Run.
“The River Bank Run was my very first race,” said Chapman, who began hand cycling 15 years ago.
The run is the largest 25K in the country and the only 25K in the world with a wheelchair division.
This year’s event also included a post-race wedding. Two long-time runners, dressed in a combination of running gear and formal attire, tied the knot after completing the 10K.
Even before today’s event, organizers have been gearing up for the 45th race, which is scheduled to take place on May 14, 2022. Training runs, sponsored by Spectrum Health, will begin in December.
“We are back,” Madiol said.
Results from this year’s race and information on next year’s event may be found at amwayriverbankrun.com.