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It was a great morning for a run as about 3,000 runners laced them up for the 41st annual Riverbank Run last May.

There will be 3,000 or so runners for the 42nd Missoula YMCA Riverbank Run Saturday, including Ron Bender and Pat King, the only men to have run every one of the event’s 10-kilometer races.

The veterans won’t be favored to win, but they could move up a spot because Jimmy Grant is taking on a trail run this weekend after winning the last five Riverbank 10Ks.

And while the 30-kilometer “Don’t Fence Me In” trail run beckons Grant, five other champions return.

The list includes Meg Brooker, who won the women’s 5K in 2010; Nicole Hunt, who won the women’s 5K last year and in 2007; and Cory Soulliard, who won last year’s men’s trifecta — a combination of all three races – the 10K, the 5K and then the mile “fun run.”

Of course the event is not all about the speediest runners; the 2,000-or-so that had registered by Thursday included several families. The races are also divided by age group. Two that are back to defend their age-group trifecta titles are Paul Grier (male 65-69) and Leea Pittinger (female 55-59).

It will be cool – around 40 degrees – when the event begins with the 10-kilometer race at 9 a.m. The temperature will be in the upper 40s by the time the 5K begins at 10:30 a.m., but then showers are possible by 11.

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All in all, not a bad day to run, or walk if need be. The return to a mid-May start is in its second year and numbers have held steady for the family-friendly event, which for many signifies the official start of spring.

“We’ll probably get a couple more hundred registered (Friday) and usually get 100 or so on race day,” said Keri McHugh, the YMCA’s health and wellness director who is in her second year directing the race.

The race started in 1973 with around 325 runners taking off from the Milltown Bridge and running into the heart of Missoula. These days it draws thousands, who begin downtown and run through the heart of the University of Montana. The races end on the Kim Williams trail near the Boone and Crocket Club.

Grant won’t be one of the finishers, but he figures he’ll be back next year.

“I’m bound to lose eventually so I figured it was time to leave it at a nice round number,” said Grant, who plans to run the Missoula Marathon this summer.

“I really love the Riverbank Run and I’m pretty sure looking back at my competitive running career in 5 or 10 years, the win streak there will be among the achievements I’m most proud of.”

Reporter Fritz Neighbor can be reached at (406) 523-5247 or at fneighbor@missoulian.com.

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