Jr. Bix Joanie

Former Olympian Joan Benoit-Samuelson holds hands with 3 year-old Jake Pasmore of Orion, Ill., as they run during Friday's Alcoa Jr. Bix 7. (Kevin E. Schmidt/QUAD-CITY TIMES)

Joan Samuelson is in need of a pick-me-up. The 54-year-old American distance running legend is hoping to get her fix in the Quad-Cities this weekend.

"I think all my traveling and racing has caught up with me," Samuelson said from her Freeport, Maine, home Wednesday. "I have been feeling a little tired. I'm hoping I can snap out of it when I come to Bix."

The Quad-City Times Bix 7 has been a respite of sorts for Samuelson, who will be competing in her 25th Bix 7 today when the 7-mile race through the streets of Davenport gets under way at 8 a.m.

"I just feel as though I'm coming home to Bix," said Samuelson, who finished 12th in the women's race last year in 43 minutes, 11 seconds. "I've made many friends over the years. It's a reunion of sorts. It's a community event, and everybody contributes in a way to make it a special event."

The 1984 Olympic gold medalist in the marathon and two-time Boston Marathon champion certainly has found a home at the Bix 7 - on top of the podium.

Samuelson and Colleen De Reuck are the only two females to have won four Bix 7 titles. She also has won five straight master's titles and 10 overall.

"She's a legend in running," Bix 7 race director Ed Froehlich said. "She came here in 1983, and 1984 she won the gold medal in the Olympics, and she's been a star ever since."

Her star power took Froehlich some time to get used to, but it's all good now.

"I can remember the first time I met her," Froehlich said. "She came in here, and of course I was just starting being the race director, and she was a pain in the neck. She was so hyper, and it was all because she had to come here and do well. She was so high-strung and competitive, and today and she's the same way. She's still a pain in the neck, but she's wonderful. She's just as wonderful as a person as she is a runner. She's first class all the way."

Being a pain and persistence have paid off.

So has drinking coffee.

Samuelson, who began drinking coffee about 21 months ago for some added pep, has finished no slower than 43:11 at the Bix 7 in the past four years.

"I have always liked the smell of coffee," Samuelson said. "I can't tell you what got me going on the coffee. I don't drink of a lot of coffee, but it gives me a little zip when I need to get out the door."

The caffeine jolt almost landed her a spot in the U.S. Olympic trials for the marathon in January in Houston.

"I was hoping to go after an Olympic trials qualifying time in Boston, but I had back spasms that week that prevented me from really racing hard in the early stages of the race because I wasn't sure I would be able to go the distance," Samuelson said.

In her first trip to the Boston Marathon in 18 years, Samuelson finished the 26.2-mile course in 2:51.29 - 5 1/2 minutes shy of securing a spot at the trials.

"I have no regrets and whether or not I run another marathon to get that qualifying time remains to be seen,'' she said. "I don't feel like I need to go to another Olympic trials and finish toward the end. I would rather go to Houston and watch and cheer the younger runners on."

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