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Chris Balczak


I run because I can! As simple as that sounds it takes on a special meaning for me. I feel privileged and excited to represent the Fifth Third River Bank Run as a Road Warrior. I’m ready to join my fellow warriors and embark upon this journey with the help of our trainers. I have taken on Helen De Vos  Childrens Hospital  as my charity partner. Please join me in raising awareness and money to help children live a healthier life. Helen DeVos Children's Hospital offers expert care from more than 300 pediatric providers, in more than 50 services and programs that always focus on your child's health. If your child needs a specialist, we can help.

 I ran ‘distance‘ on the Central High school track team to stay in shape for football. I wasn’t good enough for baseball, and wasn’t fast enough to sprint. So I ran the mile and 2 mile events in the early 70’s. Back then there was this all state runner from West Catholic and future  Olympian named Greg Meyers. That kid was fast. So fast he actually lapped me during the 2 mile event at Houseman Field.

I run because I can! I started running 5K road races when I was 37 years old. When I hit the big 4-0, I decided to step it up and do something monumental. So I signed up for the River Bank 25K. Some of my co-workers had run it and I thought “if they can do it, I can do it”. Even though it was 20 years ago, I vividly remember the theme from ‘Rocky’ blasting from the downtown speakers at the start of the race in 1997. No kidding! I still remember that awesome feeling crossing the finish line that first time. Chills went up the back of my neck. I was hooked. It’s an achievement no one can ever take away from you.

To date, I’ve completed 11 RBR 25Ks, countless 5Ks, 4 half marathons, one 15k and two 10Ks. I’ve run races in Grand Rapids, Ionia, Pinconning, Kalamazoo, Mackinaw, Frankenmuth, and Tampa Fla.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of my first 25K. As it is the 40th milestone for River Bank Run, it also marks a couple milestones for me. During a routine physical, some of the numbers from my blood work looked ‘suspicious’. After more tests, I sat across a desk and heard those words no one wants to hear, “you have cancer”. I was blessed to catch it in the early stages. After successful surgery and continued checkups, I’ve reached another milestone - cancer free for 5 years! I’ve successfully hit the big 6-0. I run because I can!

I was finally cleared to run again and man it felt better than ever. Every run is a gift. A year and a half after the surgery, I was able to complete the 25K once again. I’ve never enjoyed a race experience as much as the one in 2013. I smiled and totally took it all in. Zig-zagging along the route, turning around at the top of the hills just to see the river of runners. What an awesome run.

To me the River Bank Run is the Super Bowl, Masters, Stanley Cup, Daytona 500, and World Series of 25Ks. I feel privileged to be able to participate in such a world class event right in my own back yard. Where else can the average Joe run with Olympians. I could never tee it up with Tiger, play catch with Tom Brady, or skate with Zetterberg. I run because I can!

I always ask people at other races if they’ve ever Run River Bank. If not, I tell them everyone should do it at least once.

I’ve lived in northeast Grand Rapids all my life. I have a passion for boating on the great lakes. So much so that I live on my boat in the summer and have been called “The Captain”. To support my passion, I create solutions for a billion dollar company in Holland as an SAP developer. I have two wonderful children and a teenage granddaughter.

My mottos for running as well as life are: “It’s not how fast you go, it’s how far”, and “I run because I can!”


Fifth Third River Bank Run

PO Box 2194
Grand Rapids, MI  49501-2194
616.771.1590   |