Fifth Third River Bank Run to see increased security and support


Runners will be asked to secure their personal items in official gear bags that will be given out before the race.

The bombing at the Boston Marathon last month is changing the security — and economic benefits — of public races in America.

The philosophical shift means increased security — but also an increase in charity — will impact the 36th annual Fifth Third River Bank Run on May 11.

The River Bank Run brings $1.7 million into the city, said John Zimmerman, senior vice president and affiliate market director at Fifth Third Bank. This year, he hopes it will raise more for charity than ever before — especially for the One Fund Boston charity for families affected by the Boston Marathon bombing.

“This year, especially, we are encouraging all participants to run or walk for charity,” he said. “Raising pledges via event day participation or making a direct donation to One Fund Boston or one of the Fifth Third River Bank Run Charity Partners is an excellent opportunity to rally as a community to support those in need.”

Security at the River Bank Run this year will be strengthened.

“This year by far will be the largest security force we’ve ever had at the River Bank Run,” said Grand Rapids Police Chief Kevin Belk. “We want to ask everyone to have a heightened sense of awareness. … We need people to be observant and diligent.”

This year the GRPD will be assisted by personnel from Michigan State Police, Kent County Sheriff’s Department, East Grand Rapids, Grandville, Walker, FBI, Homeland Security, and even a few private security firms, Belk said.

All participants will receive a packet of information with reminders on safety issues, hazardous weather policies and the event alert system.

To avoid the possibility of threatening devices being left on sidewalks, as occurred in Boston’s tragedy, GRPD and race officials are asking spectators to leave coolers and backpacks at home and not leave any items unattended.

Runners will be asked to put all their items into River Bank Run gear bags given out before the race by volunteers, said Kristen Aidif, race director. The bags then will be available for pickup until 12:30 p.m. that day at DeVos Place.

“Do not bring anything that you do not need. Participants are really being urged to use the official gear check-in at DeVos Place … to store things like keys, cell phones and an extra change of clothes,” she said.

“Things that you don’t want to carry with you, we’re asking please do not store them under the third bush to the east in front of DeVos Place, because those things will not be there when people return. We’ll have an extensive security sweep of that area.”

To show solidarity with Boston, all participants are encouraged to wear blue and yellow, the colors of the Boston Marathon, Aidif said. In a gesture of reflection and respect, 26.2 seconds of silence will be held at the beginning of the race, symbolizing the 26.2-mile length of the Boston Marathon.

The most important thing is safety, she said, and this means not bringing anything unneeded and all participants keeping their eyes and ears open.

“This year, the minimalist approach will be much appreciated,” Aidif said.

In the video below, Aidif also discusses how, overall, the race has been affected by the tragedy.   

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