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Bob Beardsley loves the Quad-City Times Bix 7.

He refuses to miss it.

The 50-year-old Bettendorf resident has competed in the last 36 races, including driving back from Texas and Georgia to run. Even a torn ACL couldn't keep him away last year.

"I always have a good time, it's always a lot of fun," Beardsley said. "In the early years, I'd see a lot of the same people I'd run cross country with in high school so it was an annual thing. Then it got to the point where I got to seven, eight years, and I didn't want to break the streak."

Beardsley will extend that streak to 37 years next month but will get an additional challenge. He was named Thursday as the Isle Casino's Beat the Elite runner before the first Iowa American Water Bix at Six training run.

Beardsley will get a predetermined head start along the seven-mile course, and if he can be the first person across the finish line, he will win $2,500. This is the 15th year of the event, which has had several different names and sponsors over the years. He was selected from entries received by June 14.

Beardsley first got involved with the Bix when he was 12, working at one of the water stops on the course.

He enjoyed it so much he decided to run the next year and hasn't missed one since.

"It's the people and the atmosphere," Beardsley said. "It's such a great event, seeing all those people and running past the band. ... I look forward to every mile marker, it has something fun about it."

Last year's race presented the biggest challenge. Beardsley, who works for John Deere, tore his ACL last June while competing in another race, which included an obstacle course. Despite having surgery just 10 days before the race, Beardsley was on the course, in a wheelchair, and pushed by family and friends, all of whom were wearing "Bix with Bob" T-shirts.

"It was cool. I knew I was going to keep it going, but I thought there were only going to be four or five people here," Beardsley said. "When I came down here, they all surprised me, I came around the corner, and they were all there. I think there were close to 30 people there to help push. It was by far the most relaxed and fun Bix I ever had. I would have rather been running, but it was still pretty special."

Beardsley has been working out at CrossFit Bettendorf since being cleared from his injury but is still apprehensive about how ready he'll be come race day.

But he's willing to give it a go.

"I'm really nervous about a couple of things," Beardsley said. "I don't know what the head start is going to be, but I know they're going to make it challenging so I'm going to have to put out at least four miles of very hard effort, which is a lot for me. I'm more worried about, to get in that kind of shape in the next five weeks, will my knee hold up to the training? I've been trying to step it up, do a mile, two miles, and so far it's holding up OK."

That injury will make it difficult for race director Ed Froehlich to determine a starting point. In years past, Froehlich has used previous times to determine a starting point but has to take into account Beardsley's knee when deciding the starting point.

"I hope he'll be able to do this," Froehlich said. "Hopefully he can get through 5 miles and get through a decent pace where he can be competitive. ... Because he hasn't been running and just getting back into training, we'll talk and see where he thinks he can do it, and then I'll adjust it and see if that's where we want it.

"I don't want it just to be a cakewalk, but this guy's got a heart. He'll probably lay it all on the line out there."

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Sports reporter for the Quad-City Times