Top River Bank Run competitors ready for race in GR

Fifth Third River Bank Run finishers
Eight of some of the top finishers of the Fifth Third River Bank Run discuss preparations a day before the race. (May 12, 2017)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) –- As many as 50,000 runners and spectators are expected to fill Grand Rapids Saturday for the 40th annual Fifth Third River Bank Run.

Friday, organizers introduced a group of competitors expected to post some of the top race times. Four of the top male and four of the top female runners made a pre-race appearance, including the woman who won last year’s race.

Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton won the 2016 Fifth Third River Bank Run race within a race, meaning none of the men who started 11 minutes and 30 seconds after her passed her before she crossed the finish line.

>>River Bank Run coverage: What you need to know | Navigating the race | Race day forecast

The mood at Friday’s event was relaxed and jesting, but the air was filled with anticipation as the athletes talked about preparing for Saturday’s race.

Among them is a new elite runner: three-time Olympian and West Michigan native Dathan Ritzenhein.

“I remember growing up here, coming down here, watching it (the race) on the bridge, watching people run over the bridge and my family running in it. And so finally after all these years, with Greg finally roping me in, I couldn’t say no to him anymore. And so he’s persistent and so I’m really excited to be a part of this race,” he said.

Many of this year’s competitors are international race award winners. One runner said this is their fourth consecutive weekend competing in a 25K race.