Tiahun, Muriuki Win Bix 7 Battle
By Herb Townsend
DAVENPORT, IAStraddling the banks of the Mississippi are the Quad Cities of Moline and Rock Island on the Illinois side, and Bettendorf, and Davenport on the Iowa side. Davenport is the birthplace of Bix Beiderbecke, a noted jazz musician in the 1920s, and his birthday is celebrated here annually with a jazz festival. In 1975, the first Bix 7-mile race was held on the same week as the birthday celebration with only 84 runners. Over the years, both events have grown so large that they are now held on separate weeks. On July 28 of this year, roughly 20,000 runners were at the starting line. Among them were numerous world-class athletes, as well as US icons Meb Keflezighi, Joan Benoit Samuelson, and Bill Rodgers.
Many might assume that a race in Iowa would be flat. But not so much here! The 7-mile run begins with a steep uphill segment of about 300 yards to the top of an escarpment overlooking the river. After a brief, relatively flat section, the course descends gradually to a nasty little uphill before the turnaround, where it repeats the process in reverse, followed by an added flat 500 yards to the finish line. Although the heat and humidity at this event are usually brutal, this years temperature at the 8am start was only 68F under a partly cloudy sky.
An interesting feature of this event is the Beat the Elite runner, who is randomly chosen from the many registrants and given a handicap lead based on previous race performance. This year, 50-year-old Bob Beardsley from nearby Bettendorf was given a 3.4-mile lead, which allowed him to finish before Tilahun and claim a $2500 prize
The relatively mild weather may have contributed to several new age-group course records being set. On a personal note, I came to this race specifically to beat the existing over-80 age-group record of 1:14:01. Owing at least in part to the favorable weather, I was able to achieve this goal in a time of 1:08:49.