West Michigan's Fifth Third River Bank Run is back again for the 35th time.
It's a special year for the big race and the thousands who plan to lace up Saturday morning.
It’s a record year. Race organizers say 21,000 people are registered for all events from the 5k up to the 25k.
"This seems like one of the strongest 5/3 riverbank runs I've ever seen. Much stronger than when Greg and I ran here in 78," Bill Rodgers said.
The American running legend won the first ever 5/3 riverbank run in 1978. Rodgers competed with local great Greg Meyer, who's now on the race committee.
At today's race expo, Rodgers reflected on the sport. He discussed everything from the most competitive athletes heading into tomorrow's race to those who are just looking to stay fit or run for a cause.
"There's so many fit Americans now,” Rodgers said.
“Everyone always talks about people being overweight, blah blah blah. What I see, is I see hundreds of thousands of people out running and walking and that didn't happen like that years ago," he explained.
Rogers said there's more at stake for the elite athletes on the main stage. Some are Olympic hopefuls, while others are competing for prize money that's become more lucrative.
However, one look around Friday night's expo, and Rogers said you can tell the race has also become more of a family sport. Compared to his heyday back in the 70s, more women are increasingly lacing up.
"I've never run before, a day in my life before November and so yea, this is my first 25k," Kristen Sisson said.
Sisson said she’s running "because I'm crazy and because I said, what the heck? Why not?”
She added, “I needed to get back in shape after having two kids and I thought it would be a nice time to do something for myself."
Cozette Thomas is doing the 10k. "I wanted to stay healthy and lose weight. Also, I'm taking care of my mother who has dementia so I really thought it was really good to just stay healthy. So, it's been enjoyable," Thomas said.
Rodgers also plans to lace up and run with the masses. The four time winner of the Boston and New York City Marathons is helping make this year's Riverbank Run special at year 35.
He seems proud of how the sport has evolved. "This is like one of the great sports of the world. It's a global sport," Rodgers said.
The race director said those planning to head to the race should get there by 6 am and allow plenty of time. Parking and traffic information can be found here: http://www.53riverbankrun.com/parking-and-traffic.php