Race Recap: River Bank Run 5k
My second 5k ever was at the Fifth Third River Bank Run in 2008 and I finished in what still holds as one of my best times for that distance to date. This race is one of the biggest events in Grand Rapids each year and the energy that surrounds it is one of the things that made me fall in love with running. Since then, there has only been one year (2009) that I haven’t participated in this local race. While I love running the 25k, it just wasn’t in the cards for me this year, so I went back to the basics with the 5k.
I walked over the the expo at lunchtime on Friday to pick up my bib and stroll through the vendors. I found this year’s expo to be a bit underwhelming compared to previous years, but though the shirts were a cute design! All participants receive a cotton t-shirt with the option to upgrade to a wicking material when registering. I’ve never invested that money and as a result, the shirts from this race usually end up in a donation box. I might get some use out of this years, though.
The 5k starts bright and early at 7am, so my goal was to be parked by 6:30am. I knew it would give me plenty of time to walk to the start and not feel rushed. It was a particularly cold morning with temperature in the low 40s and a real feel of about 35 degrees. I had a few extra minutes before the start, so I waited inside and tried to stay warm. Naturally, I shared my excitement on snapchat (I’m grmindyjean over there!), because life in the 21st century dictates that if it’s not on social media, it didn’t happen.
I was a bit uncertain about how to dress and ended up in capris and a long sleeve pullover with a 1/4 zip, both from Old Navy. As I was walking out the door, I grabbed some thin gloves, and a headband, perhaps the best decision I made that morning. Over the course of the race, I took the gloves off and unzipped the top part way, but otherwise felt comfortable.
Although this is a race with massive crowds (at least for West Michigan standards), they have it down to a science, so I didn’t line up until about five minutes before the race began. Although bigger races certainly have their downfalls, there is nothing like the energy of a starting line with a ton of people.
The 5k course is a big loop that brings runners past some of my favorite spots around downtown Grand Rapids. We had the chance to run past my alma mater and twice over the Grand River. There is one water station at the halfway mark, but I ran past it this time around. Although I’ve run 5ks where I’ve needed water, this wasn’t one of them thanks to the colder weather. I was in a groove and wasn’t willing to break my stride for water I didn’t need in the moment.
My Garmin didn’t find a signal until about half a mile into the race. Other than the clocks at each mile marker, I didn’t know how I was doing. I don’t know that it’s something I would want for anything longer than a 5k. But, it was a nice change of pace to run simply based on how I felt at any given moment.
As I’ve struggled to rebuild my running endurance, there have been days where even three miles felt like a struggle. I would find myself needing to walk and catch my breath before hitting the first mile. I was incredibly proud to make it past the two mile marker, including up a pretty significant hill, before I needed to walk. In the last stretch, I dug deep to pass as many runners as I could. When they said my name approaching the finish line, I pumped my fist in celebration.
I finished four minutes slower than my PR for the distance. It was of the slower 5ks I’ve ever raced. Still, I feel so proud of myself for what I accomplished yesterday. The 2016 River Bank Run was about more than just a 5k.
In many ways, it feels like a new beginning in my running journey. After dealing with so many injuries the last couple of years, I feel like I’m on the other side. Most days, anyhow. The last six months since a DNF in the NYC Marathon have been really hard. I was burnt out and didn’t want to be a runner anymore. Once that fire finally started to light up again, it wasn’t a priority. My grandma was in and out of the hospital for most of February. Then, I was fighting off one illness or another. I felt defeated.
I’m proud of myself that these injuries may have knocked me down temporarily, I keep getting back up. For most of my life, I hated running with every fiber in my being. I couldn’t understand why people would want to do something that felt so miserable. But, I’m forever thankful for the day that I decided I wanted to do a 5k. Running has changed my life for the better in so many ways.
Next year marks the 40th running of this race. While the 25k wasn’t in the cards this year, I am looking forward to tackling that course one more time.