If almost any other road race in the United States attracts 13,711 runners and walkers, the race director does cartwheels.
With the exception of perhaps a dozen races around the country, it’s a new record and cause for celebration.
But not when it happens at a race that occasionally has been referred to as “the Boston Marathon of the Midwest.”
Saturday’s Quad-City Times Bix 7, although still a tremendous spectacle and a great sporting event, featured the smallest gathering of participants it has had in a couple of decades.
The 13,711 that entered the main race was the lowest number since 1988. Even factoring in 3,084 kids who competed in the Alcoa Jr. Bix the night before, it was the lowest mark since 1990.
Bix 7 race director Ed Froehlich, who is too old to be doing cartwheels anyway, was not appalled or even disappointed. If anything, he was relieved that his race drew as many people as it did. A lot of cards were stacked against it.
When you really think about it, 13,711 was pretty impressive.
The Bix 7 normally draws large numbers of runners from the heartland of Iowa — Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Iowa City, Des Moines. Some of those areas were walloped by tornadoes in the spring and all of them were blindsided by record floods just about a month ago. Many people there are understandably preoccupied with getting their lives back together.
Froehlich said preliminary reports he received on entries indicated a major drop-off in many parts of Iowa.
Our own area experienced two major floods this year.
And the late rush of entries that comes in the last few days couldn’t have been helped by the fact that tens of thousands of local residents were without power much of last week, the result of a horrific wave of thunderstorms.
The line of cars that normally streams in here, carrying runners from Chicago, Minneapolis and St. Louis, undoubtedly was diminished by daunting gas prices.
And yet they still drew 13,711? Doesn’t sound too bad.
Froehlich said he thinks the numbers will turn around next year when the Bix 7
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celebrates its 35th anniversary. It always does better in anniversary years, he said.
But it’s doubtful Bix No. 35 will carry the same magic and appeal as No. 20 and No. 25, which produced the two largest fields in the race’s history.
The fact is, nothing lasts forever, even something that has been as good and as special and as uplifting for this community as this event has been for a very long time. The entry numbers have waned slightly for several years, even before this summer’s misfortune. The most glorious days of the old race may have simply – pardon the pun – run their course.
While we still have a vibrant running community locally and there still are plenty of people scattered around the Midwest who know they can find a good time here the last weekend in July, it’s doubtful we’ll ever see entry numbers of 20,000, as we did in 1994 and 1999.
But the mystique of this event never has been predicated on pure size anyway.
In almost any year, 13,711 will do just fine.
Don Doxsie can be contacted at (563) 383-2280 or firstname.lastname@example.org.