Despite the COVID-19 pandemic in the past few years, the Missoula Family YMCA was able to successfully complete its 50th annual Riverbank Run on Saturday with well over 2,000 participants for the first official running event of the season.

KGVO News was there to participate, and spoke with YMCA Race Director Keri McHugh.

“We have crossed the 2,300 mark, and people are still registering as we speak,” said McHugh. “It's pretty amazing! We were hoping for at least 2,000 again get us back to those pre-pandemic numbers but we are over the moon with this turnout today.”

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McHugh provided some history of the annual event, and said there were two runners in the middle of the ongoing 10k event who have participated in all 50 Riverbank runs.

“It used to start actually out in East Missoula and Milltown and then the course kind of changed over the years,” she said. “Then this year because of the (Higgins Avenue ‘Beartracks’) bridge construction, we're back at the 'Y' here in midtown which is pretty special for the 50th. We have a couple gentlemen that have done all 50 races here today. Pat King and Ron Bender are here for their 50th and we're just kind of making a spot for everybody today, filling it up.”

McHugh explained how the entrance fees for the race benefit the Missoula Family YMCA.

“It goes actually for our financial assistance program at the ‘Y’, so thank you so much to our generous sponsors who allow this race to happen,” she said. “They pay for all the expensive race stuff and that means all the running proceeds from the racer stay right here with the Missoula ‘Y’ and go right back into Missoula community.”

McHugh, who told KGVO she believed she was directing her 9th annual Riverbank Run, expressed her feelings over how the event has grown over the years.

“I am just impressed at how much this race has evolved, and I love that Missoula is such a running community,” she said. “And it makes it even more special that this race is staying up there with one of the big events, and is kind of the traditional training start to spring. So I'm pretty proud that the ‘Y’ has been able to meet the Missoula running community with everything going on out there.”

On a personal note, this reporter ran the 5k and his time was 37.42, not bad for someone who will be marking his 69th birthday this month. Additionally, if you visit the YMCA website and find the 'Race Results' page, you will see a lovely photo of my wife Lorna from last year’s race.

The Riverbank Run is a traditional tune-up for the Missoula Marathon, which will return for its first in-person event in three years June 24-26.

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