Mary Keitany made her first Quad-City Times Bix 7 a memorable one.
The 34-year old from Kenya not only won the race by two seconds, but she also rewrote the record book for the seven-mile race through the streets of Davenport with her winning effort of 35 minutes, 18 seconds.
Both Keitany and runner-up Caroline Chepkoech, a 22-year-old Kenyan, topped the previous Bix 7 course record of 35:24 set by Susan Chepkemei of Kenya in 2004.
“We pushed each other,’’ Keitany said. “I had a little more at the end and was able to win the race. I liked the course. It is very up and down, a lot like I am used to back home in Kenya. The hills were very good to me today.’’
The Bix 7 is one of only a handful of non-marathons that Keitany has run in the United States.
The winner of the 2015 New York City Marathon and a runner-up in last year’s London Marathon, Keitany said the race’s reputation for excellence drew her to this year’s field.
“It is a race I heard so much about,’’ Keitany said. “It was very competitive. It is everything I expected it to be. The people along the course were very good. It has been an excellent experience.’’
Keitany earned the $12,500 first prize — part of a $25,000 prize purse awarded to the top-10 female finishers — by setting a quick pace.
Defending Bix 7 champion Cynthia Limo settled for third place this year, finishing just over one minute behind Keitany’s winning time with a 36:19.
“It was a very competitive, very fast race,’’ Limo said. “I ran a good race, real good, but it was not good enough. They were too strong for me on this day.’’
Gladys Yator, a 23-year old from Kenya, led the women’s field midway through the race, gaining an edge on a strong initial pack that was pushing the tempo from the start.
Even then, Keitany felt comfortable with where she was at.
“I was strong from the start,’’ Keitany said. “I started fast, which is what I wanted to do. I wanted to run a good fast race.’’
Followed closely by Chepkoech, Keitany worked her way to the front of the women’s competitors in the race as the group worked it way up the slow, steady incline along Kirkwood Boulevard.
She said she felt strong, felt good as she moved to the front of the pack.
“It was going well,’’ Keitany said. “I felt fast and I felt good about where I was at. It was good to step up a bit.’’
Keitany also stepped into the lead shortly before the five-mile mark.
“Those two began to pull away a bit then,’’ Limo said. “It had a been a pretty tight group until then. The last two miles, they were very quick.’’
Keitany moved a couple of steps in front of Chepkoech, the fifth-place finisher in the Kenyan Olympic Trials in the 10,000-meter run, as the pair approached the finish line.
By then, they were dominating.
“She had a little more at the end, but it was a good, fast race,’’ Chepkoech said. “With Rio (and the Olympic Trials) this year, we are in good condition to compete.’’
Limo took third in 36:19, while Buze Diriba of Ethiopa finished fourth in 37:13, three seconds in front of Yator. Jane Kibii of Kenya took sixth in 37:24 and Monicah Ngige of Kenya was seventh in 37:27.
The top finishing American runner in this year’s Bix 7 women’s field was Brianne Nelson of Golden, Colorado, who took 10th place in 38:56.
But the day — and a new course record — belonged to Keitany.
“It was good to be at Bix,’’ she said. “If I cannot be in Rio, then it feels good to be out here running good races. To set a record, to win a race, it was a very good day.’’