Blown away.

That is the best way to describe my trip to Davenport, Iowa this weekend for the Bix 7.

The race, celebrating its 43rd year, has a reputation for being a popular, well organized, and competitive event and it definitely lives up to the reputation. The city is abuzz the whole weekend with the Bix Festival and the Bix 7 is just one part of the celebration. The street fest runs throughout the weekend with music, food and entertainment.

As for the running aspect, there was something for everyone. On Friday, there were kids races and the race’s expo. The main event was on Saturday morning with the 7 mile race and shorter Quick Bix starting at 8 a.m. Nearly 10,000 people crammed into the starting corrals and were treated to flyover just before the start.

The course’s reputation to be hilly is well earned. The first half mile is straight uphill before making a right hand turn and onto some roads that never seem to flatten out. You notice the hills as you are running but you are motived to keep pushing the whole time by the spectators that line every inch of the course. The cheers, music and signs were never ending.

The course is out-and-back so you get to see those same spectators both ways. You also get to see the elites and other runners, which, if you know other people in the race, allows for even more cheers as you weave through the streets.

The final mile takes you back down the big hill where you can really try to make up time. After the long downhill, it is a left hand turn and 400 meters to the finish line. When you cross the finish, there is more food and drink on the tables than you could possibly hold onto or consume. There is also live music and plenty of friendly pats on the back. (They also don’t give out finishers’ medals. A fact I liked more and more the more I thought about it.)

What surprised me – though it didn’t actually surprise me – was the number of Chicago area runners that had made the trek over for the event. Off the top of my head, I saw singlets with logos for Chicago Road Runners, Fast Track Racing, Fleet Feet Racing, Dick Pond Racing, and Tinley Track and Trail. It seemed that everywhere I went, I would run into Chicago area runners that made the drive over and raved about how much they enjoyed the event and the city.

In addition to everything mentioned above, the race also hosted the USATF National 7 Mile Championship, saw a course age group record set by Joan Benoit Samuelson, and a saw a victory for the “Beat the Elite” runner, Joy Ripslinger, who got a head start on the race and, by crossing the finish line before the elite athletes, raised $2,500 for charity.

The Bix 7 is a race that truly has something for everyone. The course will challenge runners of all experience levels, the competition is fierce, the atmosphere is electric and the event is truly memorable. If, like me, you have thought about running this race in the past but have never gone, be sure to add it to your calendar. You won’t regret it.

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Jonathan couldn’t run a mile before his sophomore year in high school but went on to run at Hope College. Now, he runs with the Fast Track Racing Team and races in almost 30 races a year, still managing to run some PRs. He couldn’t win a 100 meter sprint if his life depended on it, but still has a pretty good kick at the end of a 10k. He is the Local Advertiser/Sales employee on Chicago Athlete's staff, and also volunteers as an Assistant XC Coach at Elk Grove High School and has done that for the past 11 years.

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