GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Betsy Saina crossed the finish line first to win the 46th annual Amway River Bank Run women’s 25K Saturday, followed shortly by Leonard Korir, now a back-to-back men’s River Bank Run champ.

Saina finished with a time of 1:24:31 and Korir with a time of 1:14:44. Each earned the $10,000 first prize and Saina got a $2,500 bonus for winning the ‘race within a race’ that pits the men against the women.

Saina said it was a good day to race and she was feeling strong.

“Everybody wants to win the race and that was my goal as well, but the biggest thing was I just wanted to come here and have fun and race with people and see how I am feeling,” Saina, who recently had a baby, told News 8 at the finish line. “It’s a progress. When you win a race today, you start planning for the next one. So I’m so happy I was able to win today.”

  • Betsy Saina wins the women's 25K at the Amway River Bank Run in Grand Rapids on May 13, 2023.
  • Leonard Korir wins the men's 25K at the Amway River Bank Run in Grand Rapids on May 13, 2023.

Korir, who also won the 25K in 2022, said he could tell in the middle of the race that he wasn’t going to outpace the women, so he just focused on beating the rest of the men.

“I’m feeling good but not too good,” he said. “I didn’t feel good the way I wanted it, but I’m proud I was able to get a win.”

He likes the River Bank Run, he said, and would be pleased to come back next year.

“To win this championship is not easy,” he said. “Getting back-to-back, I’m so happy…”

The 25K is the largest road race of its kind in the country and the national championship event for USA Track and Field. It has included the “race within a race” since 2015: The elite women get an 10:30 head start on the men to compensate for the average difference in finish times between sexes. If the women hold their lead and finish first, they win. If the men make up that difference and finish before the women, they win.

Steve Chapman, who is from West Michigan, won the 25K handcycle race with a time of about 42 minutes.

“I’m wiped out … but excited that I crossed the finish line first,” Chapman said. “Just being out here and enjoying the course and being with my competitors is the only goal I want every year but it was a bonus to come in first.”

Chapman also finished third at the Boston Marathon this year. He’s got races coming up in Tennessee and Alabama.

James Senbeta finished the 25K wheelchair race first in about 57 minutes. It’s the third time in a row he’s won the event.

“I’m happy with the time. Wish I was a little bit faster, but again, it was a decent time considering the conditions…” Senbeta said.

This is the second year that the 25K followed a revised course that essentially reversed the route that was used for decades. Runners started headed north on Ottawa Avenue. After crossing the river to the West Side, they had an early climb in the Butterworth Hills. When they got back to the east side of the river, there was a long, flat stretch on Indian Mounds Drive before they finished on Monroe Avenue in front of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.

10K AND 5K

Jack Kelke, 20, broke the tape on the 10K race in a little over 30 minutes, winning $500. Hannah Becker, 24, finished first among women in about 35 minutes.

Kelke ran for the University of Michigan.

“It was just more of a fun post-season kind of thing,” Kelke said. “My team right now is at Big Ten, so I was trying to support them from home but also get a little work in for fun, just to wrap up the season.”

This was Becker’s first River Bank Run and she said it was a wonderful and fun course.

“I am a bit tired out, but I felt good. Been training for a while, so I’m really happy with how it went,” she said.

The River Bank Run started at 7 a.m. with the 5K. About 15 minutes later, Noah Steffen crossed the finish line first. Cleo Boyd won in the women’s field.

Steffen, 24, said this was his first River Bank Run. He ran the 10K, too, and finished third. He said he’s training for a marathon.

“I loved it, really enjoyed it,” he said after the 5K. “I accomplished my goal.”

Boyd, 29, said her goal was to do her best and push herself because it’s been almost a year since she did a road 5K.

“It feels good to be done,” she joked.

The River Bank Run routinely draws thousands of people to downtown Grand Rapids.

“It’s a very important part of our community,” City Manager Mark Washington said. “It is yet another opportunity to distinguish Grand Rapids from the rest of the world.”

He said his favorite part of the event was hearing all the personal reasons people chose to run and the community togetherness.