Ashley Kamba's first thought was absolutely not.
But after some coaxing, the 24-year-old has taken a liking to being this year's Rhythm City Race for the Jackpot participant.
"I think I said, ‘You better find somebody else,'" the New London, Wis., native said when first approached by Quad-City Times Bix 7 race director Ed Froehlich. "I got off the phone (with Froehlich), and my boyfriend said you got to do this. I'm really excited now."
Kamba, who lives in Davenport, ran the Bix 7 last year in 52 minutes, 7 seconds. She also ran in 2008, finishing in 53:35.
"This Bix will definitely be the most memorable," said Kamba, who added that the Bix 7 is the most challenging and most fun race she's ever done and considers Mile 4 and 5 to be the toughest stretch on the 7-mile course.
Kamba's starting spot for the Bix 7 on July 24 still hasn't been determined. But as long as the massage therapist is the first to cross the finish line, she will pocket $3,600.
"I honestly haven't had a chunk of change like that ever," Kamba said.
Kamba, who took part in Thursday's Bix at 6 and plans to do the final three training runs, works out six days a week and has been involved with running since middle school.
"I'm doing a lot of weight training and cross training right now," said Kamba, who runs six to eight races a year and even has a few victories on her resumé.
Kamba is the third female to be selected the Jackpot participant, with the previous two winning by big margins - Christy Lazaridis won by 1:18 in 2007, and Jannelle Swanberg won by 43 seconds in 2005.
"I want her to win," Froehlich said. "But I want it to be competitive."
For Kamba, the nerves already have set in.
"I couldn't even sleep last night because I was so nervous," Kamba said.
Past Rhythm City Race for the Jackpot participants
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2009: Ben Lloyd won $3,500 with a time of 32:17 and nine-tenths of a mile head start. He finished 8 seconds in front of winner Meb Keflezighi.
2008: Ben Houtikier was beaten to finish line by 13 runners. With a 2-mile head start, he finished in 34:25.
2007: Christy Lazaridis won $3,300, beating race winner Duncan Kibet to the finish line by 1:18, finishing in 30:57 with a 2.7-mile head start.
2006: David Ramp won $3,200, beating race winner Lawrence Kiprotich by 12 seconds in a time of 32:01, after a 2.7-mile head start.
2005: Jannelle Swanberg cruised to a $3,100 jackpot, clocking a 31:41 with a 2.4-mile head start to beat Gilbert Okari by 43 seconds.
2004: Tim Delf was outkicked by winner John Korir despite a 2.4-mile head start. He ran 32:49 and lost by 13 seconds.