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Former Bix 7 Race Director, longtime volunteer Karl Ungurean reflects on lifetime of Bix

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Karl Ungurean remembers when the Quad-City Times Bix 7 used to take runners on Perry Street instead of Brady Street. Before the RiverCenter was built in the early 1980s, athletes would make their way up the Perry Street hill — steeper than the one they have to overcome today, he said. 

That change has allowed for one of Ungurean's favorite race sights. 

"When they run up Brady Street, you can see all of the colors going up and just everything is just moving like a carpet, a multicolored carpet," Karl said. "It's just beautiful to watch." 

The Quad-City Times Bix 7 has dominated Ungurean's summers for more than half his life — and he has the stories to prove it. From the good to the bad to the ugly, the 88-year-old has been marking time as a runner and volunteer since the race began, and served as the second Bix 7 race director. 

Before race day, Ungurean is involved with overseeing the Brady Street Sprints and certifying the route. During the Bix he coordinates the timing of runners, working with cameras and volunteer recorders to make sure times are accurate and no one cheats. 

Karl's wife, Kay Ungurean, also volunteers at the Bix, recording runner's numbers as they reach the turnaround. There are a lot of people making a lot of decisions in the planning and execution of the race, she said, and Karl is an important part of it. 

From helping runners find their bibs to stopping would-be cheaters from hopping lanes to re-measuring the route when a broken water main threatened to make the race stumble, Karl has handled it all. Going through cancer treatments have slowed him down but haven't stopped his stride completely. 

"He's contributed a lot of time and energy," Kay said. 

Cornbelt Running Club President Paul Schmidt has known Karl since Schmidt came onto the club's board of directors in 1996. Karl has always been technical and detail-oriented, which has helped him answer questions and solve problems during the height of races. 

Beyond his Bix duties, Karl also sits as Vice President of the Cornbelt Running Club. He still walks to the occasional board meeting, and served as race director for the Cornbelt Running Club 24 Hour Race for the last time this year. 

"He's just wonderful guy," Schmidt said. "He'll help out with anything."

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic the Ungurean's became Bix 7 spectators, as the virtual race didn't require timing or course certifying. Karl said he had no problem taking the year off from his duties, and Kay decided to participate since she had the time. 

However, it was nice to see the giant crowds of athletes and spectators line the route again in 2021. 

"It was good to have the whole thing, to be out there with with everybody," Karl said. 

Karl said he won't step back from his Bix duties until the 50th race in two years. He'll feel both sad and relieved when he's done — having been dedicated so long to helping to turn the race into what it is today, Karl will be ready to pass on the torch. 

"This was a great part of my life," he said. 

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