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A Nashville man with strong ties to the Quad-City Times Bix 7 has never actually run the 7-mile road race.

That is until Saturday, when Jacob McGrath plans to step up to the starting line near the corner of 4th and Brady streets with other family members for the 43rd annual event.

His paternal grandfather, Lloyd McGrath of Eldridge, added his grandson to the list of participants on Wednesday.

"It’s been a family thing for a long time," Lloyd, 77, said.

That is an understatement.

The younger McGrath's mother, Laura McGrath, who formerly served as a Bix 7 volunteer, gave birth to the first of her three sons the day after the race in 1993.

"He should have been delivered the week before Bix, but because I was still waiting on him, I thought, 'Why not go down and volunteer?'" Laura recalled. "I was as huge as a balloon."

While the family moved the following year to Conyers, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta, McGrath celebrated his 11th birthday by running the Alcoa Jr. Bix 7 in 2004.

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Jacob McGrath

Laura McGrath hugs her son, Jacob, for a portrait in 2004. 

This weekend, he will celebrate his 24th birthday back in the Quad-Cities.

Earlier this week, however, McGrath didn't exactly know what all he agreed to on Bix day.

"I thought it was a 5K," he said during a phone interview.

When he learned the full course stretches more than double the distance of a 3.2-mile 5K, he did not sound intimidated.

The former active-duty member of the U.S. Marine Corps ran between three and six miles in combat boots every day during his 4½-plus years of service.

Although his mandatory training stopped last month when he transitioned to the Individual Ready Reserve, or IRR, Sgt. McGrath said he's "still in good shape."

He spent the majority of his time in the military at bases in San Diego and Okinawa, Japan, where he said he picked up "great" leadership and time management skills.

Looking back on his development, his mother still finds it hard to believe that he survived infancy.

"He was not supposed to live," said Laura, who grew up on the same street in Eldridge as her husband, Kevin.

Their son was delivered through an emergency Caesarean-section at the former St. Luke's Hospital, now Genesis Medical Center-East Rusholme Street, Davenport.

In the process, it was discovered that the newborn had trouble breathing because of a condition called meconium aspiration, or the inhalation of feces in the womb.

He was airlifted to Iowa City and admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit at University Hospitals, where he spent the first six weeks of his life, 4½ weeks while hooked up to a high-frequency oscillating ventilator.

He also was given nitrous oxide, sometimes referred to as "laughing gas," as part of a treatment that was considered experimental at the time.

Laura held her "miracle child" for the first time four weeks after his birth.

"He was not supposed to ever play sports," she said. "He was supposed to have cognitive learning difficulties, he was supposed to have lung damage, and here he is striving."

Next month, McGrath will begin studying graphic design at a community college in Nashville, where he runs a pressure washing business with a buddy.

Lloyd, McGrath's proud grandfather, also praised his grandson's growth. In April, when McGrath last visited the Quad-Cities for his grandmother's funeral, Lloyd asked him to return for Bix weekend.

This marks the widower's 15th Bix in a row, he said, adding that he feels ready to walk the 2-mile Quick Bix. 

The duo will be joined by Lloyd’s other son, Dennis, and his family, who live in Chicagoland.

Because of work, Laura said she will not make it back for this weekend's festivities, but she definitely will keep Bix and her competitive son on her mind.

"He'll strive to beat his best record," she predicted. "I wish I could be there to watch him."

Editor's note: Look for reporter Jack Cullen's Notes @ Noon Tuesday, Thursday and Friday online at noon. He captures various sides of life in the Quad-Cities. Contact him at jcullen@qctimes.com or 563-383-2363.

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Jack Cullen covers health, wellness and outdoor recreation for the Quad-City Times.