Inspiring the Next Generation of Runners at the Fifth Third River Bank Run Junior
The training is (mostly) done and signs and billboards for the 40th running of the Fifth Third River Bank Run are starting to pop up in Grand Rapids.
The big race takes place on Saturday, May 13, but kids ages 5 to 11 have an opportunity to participate in the Fifth Third Junior, which takes place on Wednesday, May 10 at 5:30 p.m. at Wyoming High School in Wyoming.
Kids from 150 area schools are expected to participate in the 1/2-mile or mile track events. For the 22nd kids run, Blue Care Network is taking care of the admission fees, which means all kids run for free. For 2017, pre-registered participation is up 50 percent over 2016.
Race organizer Sarah Laurent said many of the children who will toe the line on race day have been working hard since March through the Feelin’ Good Mileage Club, a running program offered to 50,000 elementary students at schools in Allegan, Barry, Kalamazoo, Kent, Muskegon, Ottawa, and Van Buren counties. The program is made possible through a collaboration between Blue Care Network, Craig’s Cruisers, Ice Mountain, Meijer, RxOptical, United Dairy of Michigan and local media personality, Maranda, who hosts several kickoff events.
Schools receive incentives such as colored shoelaces, backpack chains, and toe-shaped charms that they use to motivate kids to move and run more. Each student who completes five miles of walking, jogging or running while the club is in session will have a chance to be announced at the race and lead off the runs at the event.
Laurent is excited to think that some of the young athletes participating this year will go on to develop a lifelong passion for running. She personally knows some past Junior event runners who’ve went on to run cross country in middle and high school and have participated in the larger River Bank events as adults. She also hears anecdotal stories from adult runners she meets at community training runs and events that they have fond memories of running the kids’ race.
“Maybe we did make an impression on the kids when they were in elementary,” she said.
If you’ve got a budding runner, sign them up online for the Fifth Third Junior through Friday, May 5. Late registration options will also be available on Tuesday, May 9 at Craig’s Cruisers in Wyoming from 4:30 to 7 p.m. or starting at 4:30 p.m. at Wyoming High School on Wednesday, May 10.
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Photos courtesy of Fifth Third River Bank Run