There are about a dozen world-class female runners entered in Saturday’s Quad-City Times Bix 7, but it’s hard to envision the race not coming down to a head-to-head duel between Kenyans Cynthia Limo and Mary Keitany.
Limo is the defending champion, but Keitany is among the most renowned distance runners in the world, a former Olympian and the winner of the last two New York Marathons.
Keitany is 34 and has two children, born in 2008 and 2013, but motherhood seemingly has done nothing to diminish her abilities.
In between her two pregnancies, the 5-foot-2, 93-pound Keitany (pronounced KAY-tonn-ee) ran the fifth fastest women’s marathon ever (2:18:37) at the London Marathon and placed fourth in the 2012 Olympic marathon.
Since the birth of her second child, she has won the New York Marathon twice and was first or second in every race she ran in 2014 and 2015.
But Limo at least has seen the Bix 7 course before and she responded very well to the hills of Davenport a year ago. She was part of a tight pack for much of the race before breaking away to defeat her close friend and training partner, Mary Wacera, by 10 seconds.
Wacera, who always is in close proximity to Limo in every race they do together, was expected to run the Bix 7 but has withdrawn because of an Achilles injury.
Five other things to watch in the Bix 7 women's race:
Not much experience: Besides Limo, there are only two other runners in this year's women's elite field who have ever competed in the Bix 7. The others are American Brianne Nelson, who placed sixth in 2014, and Kenya’s Monicah Ngige, who was sixth last year.
Near misses: The Bix 7 women’s field includes several runners who barely missed making Kenya’s Olympic team. Limo was fourth and Caroline Chepkoech was fifth in the 10,000 meters at the Kenyan trials and Keitany is one of that country’s alternates in the marathon.
Capable American: Nelson, a 35-year-old mother of two, is the only American elite runner in the field and while she’s not a household name, she’s very capable.
The Naperville, Illinois, native, whose husband is a firefighter and paramedic in Golden, Colorado, earned $65,716 in prize money on the USATF running circuit last year, second only to two-time Bix 7 champion and Olympian Molly Huddle.
Loving New Orleans: Ethiopia’s Buze Diriba has won three road races in the United States this year and she especially likes running in New Orleans. She ran two races in the Big Easy in March — the Shamrockin Run 8K and the Crescent City Classic 10K — and won them both.
"In New Orleans, everybody is good," Diriba told the New Orleans Times-Picayune after the second win. "I like it."
Seeing Europe: While most of the entries in the women’s field have been running in the U.S. this year, Kenya’s Gladys Yator has been making the rounds in Europe. Her three best finishes of the year have come in races in the Czech Republic, France and Germany.