How the Amway River Bank Run is different this year

River Bank Run

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With the 44th annual Amway River Bank Run set for Saturday, racers are gearing up to take the streets of Grand Rapids.

The River Bank Run is the largest 25K in the country and also features other races including a 10K, 5K run, 5K walk and handcycle and wheelchair race.

“If you’ve never been down, we encourage you to come down and watch,” River Bank Run owner Russ Hines said.

During two livestreams from the WOOD TV8 Live Desk Thursday, race leaders had the opportunity to share insights on various races and events and what they will include. Hines and race director David Madiol chatted about the race’s history, changes made due to the pandemic and specific races.

Hines said the race started in 1978 and began as a vision from some individuals who worked at Fifth Third Bank to bring more people to downtown Grand Rapids. It started with the renovation of the Pantlind Hotel — now the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel — but that wasn’t enough.

“The race was brought here to provide economic impact in Grand Rapids,” Hines said.

Fifth Third had the title sponsorship for decades until Amway took over just a few years ago. Fifth Third stayed on as presenting sponsor alongside Spectrum Health.

The 2021 race was initially scheduled to be held in May, but COVID-19 pushed it back to October.

“We’ve got everything under control from a standpoint of how the runners are going to interact with each other, how they are going to pick up different things that they need to touch,” Madiol, the race director, said.

Some other changes that aren’t quite virus-related come with the rescheduling of the race to October. The course for the 25K had to be altered due to construction downtown. 

“As a casual runner, you’ll be able to run past the elites as they’re running back into town. So it’ll provide a bit of excitement and you’ll start to think about ‘Hey, can I go a little bit quicker?'” Hines said.

Christy VanHaver, a recreational therapist and sports coordinator from Mary Free Bed wheelchair and adaptive sports, helps run the handcycle and wheelchair race at the River Bank Run.

“They’re just super excited to be back and get the wind in their face and the competition and the roar of the crowd,” VanHaver said.

VanHaver explained the differences between the wheelchair race and the handcycle race. She said the handcycle is more of a bike compared to the wheelchair.

“You get into the bike category and it’s basically a bike assembled upside down,” she said. “You’re using your hands to propel the bike with the crank up at the headset and you have a wide variety of gears.”

The River Bank Run kicks off at 8 a.m. Saturday with the beginning of the 5K run.

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