They had them on the ropes all morning.

Two kids, that is.

While the Bix 7 runners zipped by, dozens of Quad-Citians kept them on their prescribed paths by holding up the multi-colored ropes and flags that demarcated the course. And among those ropers were a couple of first-timers who performed like veterans – Jaden Conrad, 9, and Ava Alfaro, 7, of Davenport.

“It’s fun, it’s not hard work,” Jaden said. “I didn’t really mind getting up early, it wasn’t too bad. It’s fun.”

“We’re just standing here, it’s not really all that tough,” Ava added.

“Yeah, it’s not boring or anything,” Jaden chirped in.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s cool seeing all the runners go by,” Ava said.

“And how fast they’re going!” Jaden exclaimed.

“Yeah!” Ava said. “Some of them are really fast!”

“The people are really nice, some of them wave and us and say hi,” Jaden said.

“Yeah, we wave at people when they run by and we cheer for them and tell them good job,” Ava said.

“Yeah, I ran the race before, when I was like 3, and I remember it was really tough, so we like to give them encouragement,” Jaden said.

So, will she run it again?

“No, I’m retired,” Jaden said.

“I might run it,” Ava said. “I like running a little bit, you get a good workout.”

Like the kind of workout to build up your guns that you get from holding the rope up the whole race?

“No, this isn’t much of a workout at all,” Jaden said, lifting the rope briskly several times.

“Yeah,” Ava said, “this is just fun.”

Pokémon Go and costumes mingle

While most of the thousands of runners along the Bix 7 route were out to catch the elites at the front of the pack, at least one Pokémon Go fan strolling by was also out to catch and hatch the signature creatures of the popular game.

“Yeah, I figured if I was going to be walking the race it would be a good way to hatch eggs, and maybe catch some along the way,” said Brandon Foil, 23, of Davenport, noting that the increased movement was helping speed the incubation process before quickly moving on.

And if some were out to capture Pokémon, a few of the participants, Greg, 45, Owen, 9, Grace, 11, and Amanda Kelly, 40, of Hoffman Estates, made that a little easier, dressing up as the popular characters.

“We’ve gotten a lot of smiles, a great response,” Greg said.

“A lot of people were like, ‘Pikachu, I choose you,’ or asking if they could catch us,” Grace smiled.

But if you thought Pokémon Go would be the only thing to draw Nerds to the race, you would be wrong, as you could literally catch plenty of Nerds along the path, provided you ran into Joe Nichols, 53, and Rebecca Tuttle, 41, of LeClaire. The duo were dressed as both sides of a package of Nerds candy and throwing people packs of the treats.

“We wanted to do something fun and different, it’s another way to participate, and people have loved it,” Tuttle said.

“They’ve especially loved the candy,” Nichols added. “And the costumes. It usually takes people a second to get it, but then we get a huge smile.”

Garden hose man

It isn’t often a man wakes up at 5 a.m. on a Saturday and says to himself, “you know what? I feel like standing outside on the curb for two or three hours and spraying strangers with water from my hose.”

It’s even less often that any stranger appreciates such a gesture.

But the Bix 7 is an unusual event and so, the loud verbal encouragement and gleeful sprinklings of Alexander Vuong, 53, made him an extremely popular man among the thousands of hot, sweaty folks who diverted their directions however briefly to run beneath the spray of his garden hose arcing across the race course.

“I’ve been doing this for many years, I forget, I didn’t do it during the water shortage years, but most others,” Vuong said. “I ran the race in 1986 and it was really hard, so every year I’ve tried to support the runners. I know it’s really hot and it feels really great to get under that hose and feel that water on you. It’s refreshing and gives them more energy. I’ve had no complaints!”

Along with the high quality H20 is a river of encouragement coming from Vuong, who loudly cheers for competitors and urges them on with upbeat chatter.

“I love to see their smiles on their faces when they see me,” he said. “Some of the runners have called me Alexander the Great!”

And then, at the end of the race, his hose reduced to a trickle, for it had no more runners’ heat left to conquer.

Veteran still pounding the pavement

He was there watching the 100 or so hale and hearty souls on rubber soles back in 1975 when the Bix 7 first started, and he’s still running strong with the race, 41 years later.

He’s George Smull, 71, formerly of Davenport, currently of Marina Del Rey, California, and he was among the thousands rolling through the streets at Saturday’s Bix 7.

“I remember watching the first race and regretting not signing up to do it, I didn’t make that mistake again,” Smull said as he stopped for refreshments along the route. “I’ve run it many times since, did the 25th anniversary, and came back this year.”

Smull has run 13 marathons in the last year and over 25,000 miles in his career and his memories of the Bix are vibrant.

“This year the weather is perfect, I remember a few times it being 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity, that was not fun,” he laughed. “And of course the number of runners and the traffic has increased a lot over the years, and the number of people watching and the events. Now people come from all over the country and all over the world. It’s incredible.

“The Quad-Cities has changed a lot over the last 41 years, every time I come back I notice how much it’s changed,” he said, “but one thing always remains the same, the people are always great, always friendly, and the Bix is always fun.”

 Beat of the Bix 7

From full-on jam bands sprawled across lawns ripe with the spaghetti of amplifier and instrument cords to the Spartan site of two women on microphones standing next to a karaoke machine, the soundtrack for the Bix 7 was an eclectic mix.

On the more elaborate end was the full, psychedelic jam rock of Jason Carl and the Whole Damn Band, which brought its groovy, upbeat fun to the lawn of a house party crawling with revelers spilling out to the street.

“This is the fifth time we’ve played this house party, it’s definitely a different experience playing the Bix than it is playing at a bar or someplace like that,” Carl said. “It’s exciting and cool to watch the runners go by.

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“It’s a little early for us,” he said, laughing and rubbing his eyes, “but it’s also a fun excuse to start partying a little early too.”

What’s the secret to playing the Bix 7?

“No slow songs,” Carl said, “you have to keep it upbeat for the runners.”

The same sentiment was echoed by Inside Out, the duo of Kathy Cline and Alice Roseman, two ladies, a microphone and a karaoke machine, standing along the path providing uplifting tunes for the trekkers.

“We play a lot of not-for-profit events like this, a lot of races, and this is our seventh year doing the Bix,” Cline said. “We make sure the songs and our words are inspirational and encouraging.”

Newbie sends love to Q-C

Most of us who have grown up in the Quad-Cities or been here a while are used to the hype, hoopla and spectacle of the Quad-City Times Bix 7, but for a few runners and observers at Saturday’s event, this was all new terrain.

One of the most glaring examples of a newbie was Arlene Lafferty, 73. Lafferty, born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and now living in Marina Del Rey, Calif., came to town to visit friends and partook in her first Bix during her first visit to the Quads.

“I’ve done other marathons and races before, but this is my first time doing the Bix,” she said, as she stopped for a refreshment along the way. “It’s a great race, I’m really enjoying myself and having a good time.”

A large part of that is due to the environment and the people of the Quad-Cities, she said.

“This is such a great, community-oriented event, it’s so different from other races I’ve been in,” she said. “There’s such a lovely feeling of community and family that you just don’t have in a big city or in a marathon in a larger city.

“The people here are absolutely great, this is so amazing, seeing all of the people along the route just watching and cheering people on,” she said, “and then you’ve got all of the parties and the bands and the people turning this into such a big event, it’s terrific.”

And while this might be her first Bix, it won’t be her last.

“Oh yeah, we’re definitely going to do it again.”

Party on, folks!

Ain’t no party like a Bix 7 party ‘cause a Bix 7 party starts insanely early on a Saturday morning, is accompanied by various sweaty runners dropping in for food and drinks and usually involves everyone attaining a peaceful, easy feeling around the time most people are finally getting around to hitting snooze on their weekend alarms.

And for the dedicated revelers along this year’s Bix route, the parties involved everything from live bands to gigantic inflatables to fireworks to guys dressed as Elvis to open Bloody Mary bars and more.

Ryan Teel held court at a humungous yard party complete with a life-sized inflatable tank, mixed drink and beer open bars, free food and loud, fun music blaring from speakers, drawing a ton of runners.

“I just do it for the fun of it, it’s always awesome,” Teel said. “Every year gets better and better!”

It was the 26th annual house party for Keith and Julie Landsteiner, and they were having a blast in a home packed with food, folks and fun.

“We just like to enjoy the race and provide our friends with a nice place to come and watch,” Keith said. “We always have fun, it’s a great day.”

So what’s the key to a great Bix bash?

“Preparation,” Keith said. “The secret is to start getting ready the week before. It makes things a lot easier.”

“Having a great mix of people, lots of great drinks and food,” Teel said. “It’s always a good time!”