Fifth Third River Bank Run reviews emergency plans


The Fifth Third River Bank Run in Grand Rapids is the largest 25K road race in the U.S. Photo via


There is no better word to describe what happened in Boston Monday after two bomb blasts rocked the finish line and reportedly took the lives of at least three and injured dozens more near the finish line at the Boston Marathon. The explosions remain under investigation, even as executives at Fifth Third Bank in Grand Rapids meet to consider the implications today.

The 36th annual Fifth Third River Bank Run in Grand Rapids, the largest 25K road race in the United States, is scheduled for May 11.

Kristin Aidif, race director, said she had heard from Greg Meyer, the elite athletic coordinator, Don Kearn, Grand Rapids adventure runner, and West Michigan runners Tiffany and Jeremy Duffield, who were all at the Boston Marathon, and are all safe. Aidif said Meyer actually crossed the finish line before the explosions occurred and called her to inform her of the situation. Grand Rapids native Meyer is the last American male to win the Boston Marathon in 1983. 

"Taking everything under consideration"

As more information becomes available regarding the Boston Marathon explosions, Aidif’s team is meeting with everyone on the security team to review or make changes to the emergency plans to ensure the safety of the downtown Grand Rapids race participants, volunteers and spectators.

"I'm just in shock about the Boston Marathon, and my heart just goes out to the people there,” she said. “Our event is in three weeks. We’re obviously going to be taking everything under consideration. This is top awareness for everybody.” 

John Zimmerman, senior vice president and affiliate market director at Fifth Third Bank, echoed Aidif’s sympathy for Boston. As little is known yet regarding what or who caused the explosions in Boston, Zimmerman said it was too early to know how this would affect the River Bank Run.

But one thing is certain, he said. No matter how you look at it, what happened in Boston is a tragedy.

“We’re monitoring the situation, we’re working the with Grand Rapids Police Department and once we figure out what happened there, we’ll make the appropriate precautions. But we can’t make any adjustments yet if we don’t know what we’re reacting to,” he said. 

“Every detail of our event is well-planned out. We work with the city, the police, the fire departments. . . . We’ll keep monitoring the situation and work with city officials to make sure we have a premier event. . . . If there’s any changes to our race, we’ll definitely let the public know.”

Gazelle Girl Half Marathon

Bridget Meyers, assistant store manager at Gazelle Sports, ran Saturday in the inaugural Gazelle Girl Half Marathon through downtown Grand Rapids. This race did take safety precautions and had emergency plans on hand, she said.

“Our Emergency Plan is reviewed for every event and scenario that may occur to keep our participants and our spectators safe,” Meyers said in a release. “Gazelle Sports is saddened by the tragic news in Boston and keeping everyone associated with the event in our thoughts.”


As of noon on Tuesday, Zimmerman said River Bank Run event coordinators had all spoken and were staying in touch with Grand Rapids Police Department regarding the Boston bombings, but, as of right now, there have been no new findings.

The tragedy in Boston was the first time he could ever remember something like this even happening at a marathon, Zimmerman said, so until more is known, it would be unwise to speculate how this could affect the River Bank Run.

He also said no River Bank sponsors have communicated anything to him regarding sponsorship, but he does not expect any group to drop out of funding.

The River Bank Run is a major Grand Rapids event, he said, which last year alone brought in 21,000 people to Grand Rapids, creating business for hotels and restaurants.  

Zimmerman said the race generated $1.75 million in tourism for Grand Rapids, according to numbers he received from Experience GR.

Update II

In light of the tragic Boston Marathon bombings Monday, the Grand Rapids Police Department has been re-examining security precautions for the upcoming Fifth Third River Bank Run.

Grand Rapids Police Lt. Pat Dean, head of the department's special services unit, said security for the River Bank Run, is still being looked at by the department.

“We’re still seeing how things unfold, and then we’ll make our decisions on how we’re going to staff or enhance what we already have," Dean said. "Right now, we’re still planning or thinking about options. But I’m sure there’ll be additions to the security staffing the race.”

Dean said GRPD has had a good security plan for the race over the years.

Police are working with local FBI and Homeland Security officials to ensure the safety of the runners and fans, he said.

Now, however, the biggest threat to the race might actually come from flooding along the Grand River, Dean said.

“Flooding is going to be an issue,” he said. “Terrorism is definitely on everybody’s mind, but it’s not the only hot issue.”

Three Homeland Security SUVs and a K9 unit were spotted Friday afternoon parked by the Gerald R. Ford Federal Building, at 110 Michigan St. NW in Grand Rapids.

Dean said he was unsure why they were there, but was fairly certain it was unrelated to the River Bank Run.

Security guards at the Federal Building said they did not even realize Homeland Security had been there, but that Homeland Security does come regularly to do basic checkups every three months.

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