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Road Warriors inspire others to lace up for Amway River Bank Run

Training for race
Posted at 7:01 AM, May 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-11 07:11:20-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Amway River Bank Run is on Saturday, May 14. Monroe Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids will be packed with runners eagerly awaiting the start of the race.

Solmeris Hernandez and Di Payne will be hitting the pavement as Road Warriors, ambassadors for the River Bank Run.

Saturday’s race is more than just a run for these two road warriors. “The River Bank Run was actually my first race ever,” Solmeris said.

Solmeris spent years cheering on runners, but it was a doctor’s visit that pushed her beyond the sidelines.

I had been diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, and your hormones are all out of whack,” Solmeris said. “And they tell you, it's gonna be very difficult to have any more children.”

Exercise and a better diet were the top solutions to her chances of having more kids. That was all the motivation she needed to get moving. Fast forward several years and Solmeris not only has multiple River Bank Runs under her belt, but more importantly, she was able to have another child.

“I was blessed with my second child, Caleb,” Solmeris said.

Di’s journey to running also started with a diagnosis.

“When I was in my early 20s, I got diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, and I discovered that training and exercising really kind of kept my disease in remission,” Di said.

But instead of just a few workouts a week, she went all in to put focus on her fitness. From multiple 5k’s to multiple Iron Man’s, and everything in between, Di continued to push her limits. Then a skiing accident threatened to derail her journey.

“You’re sitting there thinking I’m never going to run again, but baby steps like one day at a time,” Di said. “I ran five minutes, walked a minute, ran five minutes, walked a minute, and just kept increasing and repeating that for months.”

She’s now using that comeback to inspire others, that a 5K or even a 25K is in reach if you put your mind to it.

These two will join the thousands of runners and walkers who make the trip around greater Grand Rapids. Their goal isn’t a personal record or a medal, but simply encouraging others that they make it to the finish line.

The race is expected to garner over 22,000 runners.