In years past Kathy Schmitt knew what to expect from the Quad-City Times Bix 7, but this year she's venturing into uncharted ground.
So Schmitt, the 2014 Rhythm City Casino Race for the Jackpot runner, has reached out to those who have gone before her for advice, namely Janelle Swanberg, the first person to win the event back in 2005.
"I don’t really think she told me anything I didn’t know, but it was just nice talking to her," Schmitt said of Swanberg, who beat Gilbert Okari by 43 seconds in the second year of the Jackpot run, which awards $2,500 to a randomly selected individual if they can cross the finish line of the Bix 7 before the first elite runner.
At 62, Schmitt is the oldest participant in the event and will start on McClellan Blvd. on Saturday, receiving a 3.1-mile head start, the largest lead given in the 11-year history of the event. The gap was determined off Schmitt's previous Bix 7 runs, including her time of 58 minutes, 38 seconds last year. It also took into account the time of Bix 7 favorite Meb Keflezighi, who ran last year's race in 32:38.
The second-oldest jackpot runner, Bob Madison, who was 60 years old at the time, was given a 2.4-mile head start and lost by six seconds to Silas Kipruto in 2012.
"He was running a much faster pace," race director Ed Froehlich said of Madison. "I think she'll have a good shot at it."
Schmitt, a third-grade teacher a Eisenhower Elementary School, said she was hoping for a 3.2-mile head start, but couldn't convince Froehlich to give it to her.
"I said I needed that extra tenth because I'm the oldest," she said. "I feel pretty good about it. I know I have to run an 8-minute mile and I'm not used to that, but I'm working at it and I guess time will tell."
She'll also try to incorporate the advice given to her by Swanberg.
"Get a good night’s sleep and I don’t know how you do that," Schmitt said. "And then, take it easy on the hills and I guess I knew that from all the other races that I’ve done that the hills would be the hardest part."
Schmitt has spent the past month training by starting in the Village of East Davenport and making her way through most of the back half on the course. But without knowing what to expect, it's hard to truly gauge what her expectations are come race day.
She does know what she's most afraid of — the heat and the hills. It is unlikely she will enjoy the record-setting 57 degrees of last year as early forecasts are predicting a race-time temperature of around 75 degrees, about five degrees warmer than the average of previous races.
And while she is avoiding the Brady Street hill, she'll still have to conquer part of the McClellan Blvd. hill as well as the hill going up Kirkwood Blvd. If she does that and crosses the finish line first, she'll become the oldest person to win the Jackpot.
Schmitt said she just feels fortunate to be given this opportunity. With most of her friends no longer capable of running at the level she's going to have to run Saturday, she's prepared to just enjoy the moment.
"By the time you’re my age, something’s bound to wear out but ... I’m really lucky that I’ve been able to run for the 32 years that I’ve been running," she said. "I’m lucky that I’m still able to do what I can do."