Be sure to add your blog to my blog list -- Click HERE or blog list above to add your blog!

May 18, 2016

River Bank Run 25k race review

Short Version
Finished in 2:22:14 (official time); first 25k on roads!
Overall Place:  2,132 out of 4,687
Overall Men:  1,464 out of 2,412
Men 45-49:  177 out of 288

Timed Race #107

I have been wanting to run the River Bank 25k since I started running.  Unfortunately, it's always been on Mother's Day weekend so it was never a good time especially since my wife is NOT a runner.  This year they changed the weekend so I had my chance to run it!  Overall, a fun race with a nice course.  I like running downtown and by the river in Grand Rapids.  The last time I was there was 2012 when I ran the marathon.  If you have not run this race before, I highly recommend it.  It's one to put on your bucket list.  It's the largest 25k in the Country!!!!


Long Version
Registration/Packet Pickup
Registration was very easy as it was all done online.  The race had their own website with all information about the race and things were very organized.  All your questions were clearly answered on the website and it was easy to use.  I actually ended up staying at Yankee Springs State Recreation area for a night of camping.  It was only about a 30 minute drive to downtown so not a big issue.  If you like to gamble, the Gun Lake Casino is only about 6 miles from the campground too.
Yankee Springs entrance
While I was camping, I didn't get to do much of that.  I pretty much set up my tent, picked up my packet, ate dinner and went back to go to sleep.  The park itself though is really nice and I'd like to come back and run their many trails as well as the North Country trail that is nearby.   I also had planned to eat in downtown Grand Rapids at a brewery but Garth Brooks was also in town this weekend so downtown restaurants were crazy busy.  I ended up eating at Noodles which actually was really good.
My site on the canal
My view on my campsite
Packet pickup was the day before at the expo at the DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids.  It is located right next to the start line which made things very easy.  This expo was fairly large and was as big as many marathon expos I've been to.  You could also pick up your packet that morning if you wanted but I decided to pick up the night before so I didn't have to worry about anything.  Actually, it would have been easy to do packet pickup that day because you could have just checked your shirt and other packet information since it was in the same room.
DeVos Place
As you can see, the expo was pretty large.
If you didn't already have your number, you could check for it on computers they had set up by packet pickup.
Number search
After that, you just found your number and got your packet from a volunteer.  I could have been in and out in 5 minutes but looked around for some deals too.  I didn't end up buying anything but they did have a few deals on shoes.
One thing I was looking for was a nice sweatshirt or hat but the race logo stuff was pretty limited - at least by the time I got there which was about 7pm and close to closing time.
Start Area
The next morning, after a pretty eventful evening (since it rained literally all night), I got to gear check and decided to check my sweatshirt.  There was possibility of rain during the race and I thought it might be useful if I were cold and wet.  Turns out it was a good idea since it was cold for most of the race and wet at the end.   As you can see, gear check was also very easy.
Gear check
I ended up waiting until about 10 minutes before the race start, inside in a warm building, with real bathrooms (although there were port-o-potties outside too).  With that, it was time to get in line for the start.
Start area
The start was very organized, as it should be, considering they have been doing this race over 30 years and have really perfected the area.  Everything was easy to find and organized as you can see by the barriers everywhere.
Of course, with about 15,000 runners, it was really busy and crowded but I was easily able to fit in where I wanted.  I didn't have a huge pacing plan but figured I go between 9 and 9:30 per mile.  If I could, I would at least try and keep a sub 2 pace through the half marathon mark, which I did.
People behind me as far as the eye can see!
The race had pacers too which is always helpful in a race.  I could barely see the start and it took me over 2 minutes to actually get to the start after the race officially started.
People in front of me - can barely see the start line!
The course is a nice loop along the river, hence, River Bank run.  It starts in downtown Grand Rapids and goes along the park on both sides of the river.  It's a really nice run.  I also really enjoy running in the downtown area too.  I was able to just barely squeak by with a sub 2 hour half marathon but was not able to keep that pace for the addition miles.  As you can see there are a few hills, but overall, still fairly flat.


I would have really enjoyed running more in the downtown area.  It's really nice to run around the large buildings and check out downtown.
And we are off!
Downtown start
We passed by a couple of the local breweries in the area.  I didn't have time to partake in them this time because I had to head back home for another race on Sunday morning.  I think if I were to go to the race again, I'd go with my wife and enjoy the entire weekend.  There's a casino near the campground but staying downtown would have meant more sleep.  Also, you could walk everywhere downtown once parked so you could enjoy the breweries.
B.O.B. Brewery
Soon we were making our way out of the downtown area.

I passed one of my favorite breweries, Founders Brewing Co, that makes awesome beer!
Founders Brewing Co
I had not been right next to the 9 minute pacers at the start but ended up catching up to them fairly quickly.
9:00 pacers
I figured I would try and hang with them as long as I could.  Unfortunately, they were running behind and picked up the pace to catch up so I dropped back from them.  Each mile marker was not only marked with the mile (as well as km), it also had the time.  Of course, this was gun time so I was two minutes behind that.
Mile 2
The course had plenty of port-o-potties in various areas.  In fact, I'd even say that maybe more than needed but better to be more than less.
Port-o-potties on course
We then started seeing parts of the river.  I will say that this race is much different that I've become accustomed to because I'm used to having 200 people start and being on all trails.  It was a nice change of pace actually to run a large race.
River next to us
As we got into mile three, we got to a more wooded area which remained for numerous miles and went along the river.
Mile 3
I kind of tried to break the race into five segments, each being 5k so it was nice to see a sign each time you past the next 5k on the course.
5k mark
I got quite a few pictures of the aid stations since they were plentiful so I just left all the pictures in this section rather than cut them over to the Aid Station section of the race report.  You will see they are well stocked with lots of volunteers, plenty of water and gatorade.  I did find it odd that the race did not offer any Gu or nutrition (outside of orange slices).  Good thing I read about that as I was just going to use whatever they had on course.  I ended up buying a couple Gu at the expo since I didn't bring any.
Big aid stations

Mile 4
We had now run from Grand Rapids to Grandville - over 4 miles.

Mile 5
I was happy to see that it just rained the night before and the rain was holding off.  It would have been really miserable with the cold and rain.  Without the rain, the cool temperatures helped for racing.  I also had forgot to bring bandaids (yes, for my nipples).  I was really worried about it but it didn't end up being too bad given the cold.
10k mark
There were also a few spots on the course where there were cheer stations.  This really felt more like a marathon than a shorter distance.
Cheer station
The crowd support was also pretty good and was even crowded in some places on the course.  Its nice to give you a boost of confidence when you hear people cheering for you.
Good crowd support
Soon we were near the turn around point as we crossed over the river and started to head back to the finish.
Crossing over the river
More crowd
The race had a couple timing mats that we ran over to help keep track of timing.  I believe this was around the 6.5 mile point or so?
Timing mat
Mile 7
It was amazing that you always had runners running by you all the time.  You can see that even after seven miles, there were still people near you - actually through the entire race.

Still fairly crowded

Finally we were at the half-way point in the race!  Yeah!
1/2 way!
Mile 8?
You can see below we had to run up some slight uphills but nothing too dramatic.  This was actually one of the bigger climbs.
A couple smaller hills
Below was actually the biggest hill on the course and it was not that long so nothing to worry about if you are worried about running hills.
Not so small hill - looks worse than it is though
Mile 9
Soon we were at the entrance of Millennium Park.  It would have been nice to take a detour in there.  I believe that the marathon went through there more but I don't remember exactly how.
Entrance to Millenium Park
As we came up to this point, there was an older woman on the bridge who was cheering for people and she had one of her legs over the rail.  Not sure what was going on there?

15k mark
We then ran past a nice lake called Lake Leota.
Ran past a nice lake
You can see that some of the spectators had Winter coats on during the race.  Yeah, it was unseasonably cool.
Good crowds here
Mile 10
As I got to the double digit portion, I was starting to get tired as I've not been used to running this fast of pace since I'm mostly on trails.

Mile 11
I took a picture of these two girls because I loved the shirt.  It says "The Struggle is real" and has a poop pile running.  Hah!
Great shirts!
The course also had a few bands to listen too as well which is always a nice touch for a race, especially when it's not a marathon.  I would have liked to see even more bands out there.
A few bands on course
Another timing mat coming up as there was also a relay option for the race.  I believe this was a spot for runners to transition to the next runner.
More timing mats
Mile 12
We passed a Coke production facility too which was kind of neat.  The lady in the pink had a sign on her back that said she had gone through breast cancer, a brain tumor and a stress fracture and she was still running.  It was very inspiring.
20k mark
The trees down this street were cool as I like the maples all lined up.  There was always something to look at on the course no matter how little.

Mile 13
As I came to the 13.1 mile marker, I really had to push to get my sub 2 hour split.  I barely made it with a 1:59:31.  Yikes!  Ha!
Half marathon mark - are we done yet?
It was all downhill from here but I could not keep up that pace.

Cool statue!

I can see downtown!
The support for aid stations was all the way long the course.  I was impressed by the number of aid stations.

Thankful to be almost done
Soon we were nearing downtown and made a nice run by Grand Valley State University.  It is a really nice campus.  Looks like a great place to go to college.
Near Grand Valley
Nice area in College

Mile 15
As we were almost finishing, we crossed over the river and I was able to get a shot of the bridges near us with a couple tall buildings in the background.
Bridge over water
I was ready to pull into Bagger Dave for food and a beer!
Yum, burgers....
Then..........then, it started to rain!  At first it was just a few sprinkles.
And then it started
Then the sky just opened up.  It seriously was blowing with huge wind gusts, pouring cold rain, and freezing rain!  It was absolutely miserable but I was happy it only happened in the last five minutes of the race for me.  Had it been an hour or all through the course, I would have been frozen the entire time.

Unfortunately, it rained all the way up to the end of the race.  I was completely drenched and so cold that I forgot to take pictures of the finish area.  I was able to grab a water, chocolate milk and bagel.  Had I missed the rain, I would have stayed for my free beer by Perrin Brewing Company but I couldn't stand being out there and just went to get my gear and get changed.
Finish line
Aid Stations
The aid stations were plentiful and awesome.  As mentioned, they were well stocked with water and gatorade.  There was no chance you would have been dehydrated.  They also had ice in a few of the locations too.  I'm sure given the cooler weather, they didn't go through as much as what they planned for.

Finish area
The finish also had barriers to help with crowd control.  Volunteers were giving out water, then medals, then there was a food line.  The beer tent was also very close to the finish area as well as the DeVos Place to get your gear.

For my race entry, (I paid about $89 which included, an additional shirt, since I donated at least $30 extra dollars to charity), I received two shirts, a cotton and tech shirt, a custom race bib, a race medal, a fully supported measured course.  The bibs had QR codes so you could get immediate results on your phone.
Bib with QR code
The entry also included a free post race beer by Perrin Brewing Company.  Nice!
Craft beer with entry
I actually like the tech shirt.  It's a nice grey color, fits well, and is made by Saucony.  I will definitely be using this for training this summer.  This is the shirt I paid extra with as the entry included a cotton shirt.
Tech shirt - not included with entry
Back of tech shirt
I also like the cotton shirt since it's nice to have another shirt to wear day to day.  I only wish I could have chosen a large since it shrunk and is a bit tight.  Unfortunately, you had to choose the same size for the tech and cotton shirt.  Not sure why.
Cotton shirt - front
Cotton shirt - back
Then there was the medal.  Sorry to say, my opinion is that I didn't like the medal.  Sure it has a nice custom ribbon and the medal size was good too, however, it has Fifth Third Bank all over it.  Now, I'm not opposed to sponsors putting their name on the medal since they do pay for it but it's twice on the actual medal and twice on the ribbon - overdone.  Okay then....., by the way, I didn't run the race for the medal, but previous years medals with just the stick figure would have been better to me.
Race medal
Medal close up
The organization of the race was excellent.  The website was well planned and answered all questions.  The start area was well planned.  The expo was easy to get into and around.  The finish line was also well planned.  The post race party, while I didn't stay, was close and easy to find.  Everything was downtown and would have been very easy to just stay at a hotel there.

Overall, I felt this was a really nice, fun race.  I really enjoyed the course.  I think it's the perfect race to enjoy for a weekend getaway.  While I like the campground at Yankee Springs, I would definitely recommend just staying at a hotel downtown, enjoying the down, and stay the entire weekend to enjoy the entire day on Saturday there.  It's the largest 25k in the Country so it's one that should be on your bucket list.  I'm glad I was finally able to run it.

Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!

Disclosure:  This race was paid for with my own funds.  All opinions are my own.


  1. Nice recap! I love that race. I had such a good run there that it finally gave me the confidence to try my first marathon. I'd definitely like to run it again in the future. We paid more to stay in a hotel right at the start when we did it, and it was worth it. It's pretty nice when you can run down 5 minutes before the start of the race. I'm glad the rain held off until the end, but it makes it hard to enjoy the after party.

  2. easy sub 2, what's next? Are you looking at another marathon, a sub 4... or a crack at that BQ!