Cynthia Limo and Mary Keitany both have been around the Kenya racing scene for a long time, but amazingly they only have gone head to head in a race one time.
Showdown No. 2 comes today when they both run in the 42nd annual Quad-City Times Bix 7.
Limo, 26, is the defending Bix 7 champion and has been the best runner on the U.S. road racing scene for the past couple of years. She has finished first in six U.S. races this year, has been second in four others and has not finished worse than fourth.
And she really wanted to come back to Davenport. Bix 7 elite athlete coordinator John Tope could see that when he ran into her at the Lilac Bloomsday 12K in Spokane, Washington, in April.
“She didn’t even say ‘Hi’ or anything,’’ Tope said. “She stuck her finger in my chest and said ‘Bix 7. I want to come.’’’
Keitany, 34, runs very few non-marathon races in this country. She doesn’t really need the money. She won a $500,000 major marathons bonus in 2014 based on her performance in the world’s six most prestigious marathons. She and her husband own a large hotel in downtown Eldoret, Kenya.
But she has heard a lot about the Bix 7.
“We went over the course today,’’ she said Friday at a prerace party at St. Ambrose University. “It’s very up and down.’’
The only previous meeting between Keitany and Limo came at the RAK Half-marathon in United Arab Emirates in 2015. Keitany won with Limo finishing third.
Rodgers roots: For 37 years, Bill Rodgers has been running up the Brady Street hill in the Bix 7 but he never knew he had ancestors who once lived at the top of the hill.
Charlie Rodgers, his brother, said he stumbled across that nugget of information while doing family tree research at the Newberry Library in Chicago. He said some Rodgers relatives lived in the 1500 block of Brady in 1890 and one of them attended Tri-City Business College at the foot of the iconic hill.
“We were looking at this in the Newberry Library and we couldn’t believe it,’’ Charlie said. “All these years we’ve been running past this place where one of our relatives lived and we never knew.’’
The Rodgers brothers have known for years that they had relatives from Monmouth, Illinois. On the Thursday before the race, Charlie often goes down there and drinks a toast to his dead relatives in a Monmouth cemetery.
Still nervous: Bill Rodgers estimates that he has run about 180,000 miles in his career, but he still can get butterflies before a race.
“I’m nervous about the race (Saturday),’’ Rodgers said while addressing the crowd at St. Ambrose. “How can you be nervous when you’re 68 years old? It’s ridiculous.’’
Running the parks: Joan Benoit Samuelson, who is running the Bix 7 for the 33rd time, has some special plans set for next year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the national parks system.
She and her husband, Scott Samuelson, will run in 10 different national parks in a span of 10 days. Joan said she probably will run 10 miles at each place while Scott does 10 kilometers.
They will start in the Pacific Northwest and do a few parks there, but Samuelson said the whole schedule has not yet been set.
Top volunteers: As always, the Bix 7 honored its volunteers of the year at the Friday party. This year’s honorees were Russ and Jo Hart, who are in charge of hot dog distribution at the Alcoa Jr. Bix 7, and Jim and Jane Fox, who supervise the water station at the starting line for the big race.