The Quad-City Times Bix 7 has served as the U.S. championship race for seven miles twice in the past seven years, which meant that only American runners could claim prize money.
The five times in that span that it was not an All-American race it was won by either Silas Kipruto or Leonard Korir.
And those same two Kenyan veterans will be back to take another shot at the hills of Davenport three weeks from now.
Kipruto and Korir headline the elite field for the July 28 Bix 7, which also will include one former women’s champion and a woman who ran the second fastest time in Bix history just two years ago.
Kipruto, 33, is one of only two men ever to win the Bix 7 more than twice — John Korir did it five times — as he crossed the finish line ahead of everyone else in 2011, 2012 and 2016.
His most recent visit, however, included a bit of controversy. As he led the lead pack down Kirkwood Boulevard in the sixth mile of the race, he felt Teshome Mekonen was clipping his heels from behind so he turned and took a swipe at the Ethiopian. Mekonen filed a post-race protest, which was denied on the basis that the swipe had no impact on the outcome of the race.
Mekonen, who finished eighth in 2016, also is returning to the Bix 7 this year. Five other top-10 finishers from that race — Belay Tilahun (second), Isaac Mukundi (third), Elkanah Kibet (fourth), Meb Keflezighi (seventh) and Shadrack Kosgei (ninth) — also are coming back.
Keflezighi, the only man ever to win the Boston Marathon, the New York City Marathon and an Olympic medal, is retired from competitive running and isn't likely to go all out in this year's race.
Korir, 31, was not part of that 2016 race because he was preparing to represent the United States in the Olympics that year, but he has beaten Kipruto on both occasions they have gone head-to-head in Davenport. Korir (no relation to John) won in 2013 and 2015 with Kipruto finishing second and fifth respectively in those years.
Korir’s 2013 time of 32 minutes, 15 seconds is the fastest Bix time of the past decade.
If anyone challenges all those returning Bix veterans it could be Linus Kiplagat, a 23-year-old Kenyan who has made a big splash on the U.S. road running scene this year, winning five races.
The women’s field is led by two more Kenyans, Caroline Rotich and Caroline Chepkoech.
Rotich won the Bix title in 2011 and has finished in the top three on three other occasions since then. She also won the 2015 Boston Marathon.
Chepkoech never has won the Bix 7, but she owns the second fastest time ever run by a female runner. She took second place in 2016, just two seconds behind Mary Keitany’s record-shattering time of 35:18.
Two other top female contenders from 2016 also will be back. Ethiopia’s Buze Diriba, who has won five U.S. races this year, took fourth that year while Kenya’s Monicah Ngige was seventh.
Another major contender could be Buzunesh Deba of Ethiopia, who was second in the Bix in 2013 and won the Boston Marathon the following year.
Diane Nukuri, a former University of Iowa athlete and three-time Olympian, also is back in the Bix field.
Bix 7 elite athlete coordinator John Tope was pleased to find more American runners were eager to run the Bix 7 this year, which is not always the case when the race includes an international field.
The Hansons-Brooks Distance team of Rochester, Michigan, and Zap Fitness of Blowing Rock, North Carolina, are sending a combined total of 10 runners to the Quad-Cities.
Probably foremost among that group is 30-year-old Tyler Pennel, who narrowly missed making the 2016 U.S. Olympic team in the marathon and was fourth in the Boston Marathon earlier this year.
Another prominent name among the elite runners is Canadian Ben Flanagan, who won the NCAA 10,000-meter championship at Michigan last month and is just getting started on his road racing career.