Meb Keflezighi has faced challenges during his five trips to the Quad-City Times Bix 7.
But none might be bigger than Saturday, when the defending champion will be a spectator.
Keflezighi, who won last year's race by 30 seconds, is back in the Quad-Cities for this weekend's festivities, but he says he won't compete in the 7-mile race through the streets of Davenport.
"It's right to say that I won't run," Keflezighi said Wednesday. "It's a tough call and a big disappointment. I always want to give 110 percent, that's my philosophy. I'm just not the fittest and I'm not sure I can pull it off. I got to be smart."
Keflezighi, who was last year's U.S. national champion in the marathon, half-marathon and at 7 miles along with being the U.S. national cross country champion, has been recovering from a knee injury he says he suffered during this year's Boston Marathon, when he finished fifth in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 26 seconds.
"I don't want another setback," Keflezighi said. "I could run the race, it's just how fast I could do it. I have to make a decision for the long term."
Keflezighi's decision is OK with Bix officials, too. They are just happy to have Keflezighi here to take part in the festivities.
"I know it's going to be extremely hard for him on race morning and not be able to go out and go nose to nose with the elite guys," said Bix 7 assistant race director Dan Breidinger, who has developed a close relationship with Keflezighi during his trips to the Quad-Cities. "He knows when he should or shouldn't run."
Keflezighi said he's getting close to be being back to where he was when he won last year's New York City Marathon - becoming the first American man to win the race since 1982 - running about 80 miles a week. That still is short of the 120-plus miles he was putting in before his injury.
"Bix is just a couple weeks too early for me to be at my best," said Keflezighi, who plans to do the Falmouth (Mass.) Road Race next month and maybe another race before the New York Marathon in November. "I'm just concentrating on getting healthy. That's the first step."
The healing process also includes this weekend's trip to the Quad-Cities.
"This is more than just a race. The people here are very friendly, and it's a fun place to be," Keflezighi said. "All the banners hanging are neat to see, and the starting line is great when they do the national anthem. That gives me tears."
Keflezighi, who won the silver medal in the marathon at the 2004 Olympics, expects to be at the starting line once again Saturday and might even have his racing flats in hand.
"I brought them with me," Keflezighi said. "I will be there cheering everyone on, but after 32 or 33 minutes have passed, I will feel a lot better."
Without Keflezighi, the men's field could be up for grabs.
"There's always a chance for a dark horse," said Keflezighi, whose autobiography is expected out in November. "But on paper, Ryan Hall should win it. I'm not a predictor, but I think he would have a good shot. I know he will really like the community."
At a glance
What: Quad-City Times Bix 7
When: 8 a.m. Saturday
Where: Through the streets of Davenport
Information: (563) 383-2489
Volunteer information: (563) 383-5353
Meb at Bix
Year Finish Time
2009 1st 32:25
2007 4th 32:26
2006 5th 32:56
2003 3rd 32:41
2002 1st 32:36