The Rapidian

Running the River Bank: Chad Engbers

Underwriting support from:
Chad Engbers

Chad Engbers /Heidi Stukkie

On May 8, downtown Grand Rapids will be packed with anxious and ready runners and walkers for the Fifth Third River Bank Run.  In addition for the 20,000 plus particpants, there are some other items that will take up space along the course and that the start and finish. Consider this: 12,000 bananas and 2,720 oranges will be consumed in and around downtown Grand Rapids on race day; 6,200 lbs. of ice will be used; 5,805 bagels will be eaten by volunteers and participants; 20 lbs. of petroleum jelly will be used to lubricate participants' parts for their event and 80,000 safety pins will hold runners bibs in place.

Among the runners will be Chad Engbers, Calvin College English Professor and southeast side resident.

Which race are you running and why?
I started training for a marathon exactly a year ago, but I trained too hard and strained something in my leg. It took me several months to get back onto the street, and I thought the 25k would be a good distance at a good time in my training schedule. I was right: it's been a good, but safely attainable, goal. 

Are you a repeat racer, or is this your first River Bank Run? How did you decide to run it?
I like activities with local character, and this race is definitely one of those things. It's so much a part of Grand Rapids culture, and I don't think it's any accident that in the vote for T-shirt designs, the one with a sort of map of Grand Rapids on it was the landslide winner. I've always wanted to run it. I remember being a little kid and going down to Johnson Park to cheer on my dad when he did it--at about the same age that I am now.

Describe your training program.
I run 7 or 8 miles twice a week, with a long run--currently ranging between 10 and 15 miles--on the weekends. I'm not following a specific agenda and I'm not tracking my times. I don't wear a watch when I run or look at the clock when I leave or get back. I do follow established routes so that I can be sure I'm increasing my distance, but I run partly as a release from the thinking and planning I have to do in other aspects of life, so I try to leave my program pretty loose.
    Over the winter, I ran 7 miles every other day or so on treadmills, and I was more attentive to pace. Because I wasn't doing distance runs on the weekend, I worked on slowly increasing my speed--which is easier to do and track on a treadmill. I took about 30 seconds off my mile since last summer.

I hate treadmills, and without music, I find that I give up after 4 or 5 miles. I also employ the playlist when I'm really, really tired and have to get a run in. In general, though, I prefer not to run with music. Partly it's because I run on city sidewalks and like to be able to hear what's going on around me to stay safe. Partly it's because my own thoughts tend to tumble around more freely and somehow sort themselves out if I'm not pumping music into my head.
    And partly it's my aesthetic: I like the idea of running without electronics (watch, headphones or GPS). Shirt, shoes and shorts. That's my gear.

What is your biggest fear. if any, about running the River Bank Run?
I'm afraid that I'll incur some injury and keep running out of a stubborn determination to finish, maybe accomplishing this race at the expense of several good runs over the summer.


The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.