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Zip ties hold it all together: The Quad-City Times Bix 7 through the eyes of race director Michelle Juehring
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Zip ties hold it all together: The Quad-City Times Bix 7 through the eyes of race director Michelle Juehring

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Putting together a race like the 47th Quad-City Times Bix 7 requires a director and 5,000 volunteers as well as 150 committees to oversee all of them. You need medical personnel and law enforcement officers and city officials. Of course, you need runners.

Lots of runners. And countless hours of preparation.

But what really keeps the massive yearly undertaking all together, from weeks before the starter's pistol until the last traffic barrier is removed from Brady Street?

"You might not believe this," Bix 7 Race Director Michelle Juehring said Friday. "But it's zip ties. Those plastic bands are the Bix 7 version of duct tape.

"There wouldn't be a Bix 7 without zip ties."

Juehring speaks from experience — she's a battled-tested Bix 7 veteran who started working the race in 2003. She finally got a chance to sit down inside the Running Wild & Fitness Expo just before 11 a.m. Friday to consider all of the elements of an international running event that was less than 24 hours from the bang of a starter's pistol.

The 53-year-old Juehring became race director in 2020 after the retirement of Ed Froehlich. She guided the race through its virtual version during the COVID-19 pandemic and was in the midst of preparing for her first full-blown Bix as its director.

"The thing I've really learned this year is that I have to let go," Juehring said. "We have 150 committees to work with all the volunteers and handle the day-to-day contact. It's my job to have complete confidence in their abilities.

"I'm letting go of the desire to do everything and learning that it is far more important for me to delegate. But it's not easy — not because I don't trust all of the volunteers and the committee members, but because I want to be part of it all."

Juehring said she had "some really big shoes to fill" when she was named race director before the 2020 race.

"Ed Froehlich was race director for 40 years," Juehring said. "He took this race from a local road race to a world-class, elite-athlete event.

"What he did was amazing. He added so many of the elements of the entire Bix 7 week that seem like they've always been here. Ed has left a legacy."

Through all the changes COVID-19 forced in 2020, planning for the 2021 race was not without lingering pandemic-induced difficulties.

"Since last year's race ended, we've been planning for a very different race because our plans have changed on a monthly, weekly and daily basis," Juehring said. "We didn't know if the race would be open to all contestants until, basically, the last week in June, first week of July. I'm very grateful to have a whole race, but the road to getting here has forced us to be flexible and change."

Juehring dealt with six notifications on her cellphone during the brief interview for this story. At 11:22 a.m. she took a call about how to move 50-pound sponsor signs after the start of Saturday's race.

"There are a hundred things that pop up during the day," Juehring said. "Honestly, I feed off the energy of the people I'm working with. There is just a kind of buzz and I'm going with it."

Juehring's day before the race started at around 5 a.m. She was still at it when the digits on her watch showed 8:15 p.m. There were 11 hours and 45 minutes until the start of the Bix 7.

"We're still shakin' and bakin'," Juehring said. "We are transitioning from Arconic's Junior Bix race to the Bix 7. And we are setting up for the Prairie Farms Quick Bix.

"Oh, and we're making sure the starter's pistol works. We don't want to get to that start of the race and have a misfire or have the pistol malfunction. That's every race director's worst nightmare."

Speaking of sleep, Juehring said she expected to get 4-6 hours of sleep before the Bix 7.

"The mood is great and there are so many great people working with me," Juehring said. "I'm not tired yet."

Nine hours after Juehring spoke those words she was near 4th and Brady streets in the heart of downtown Davenport.

She declined to say how long she slept, but she was back to the race by 5 a.m. Saturday. Hits from the likes of Rick Springfield and Prince played over the public address system while volunteers used zip ties to hold temporary fencing in place.

By the time 7 a.m. rolled around, Juehring was still smiling and took moments to pose for pictures with race volunteers.

She paused long enough to consider the zip ties holding her together.

"My team. My staff. They've helped me get to this," she said. "The committee chair people. My family. My faith.

"And then there are the city officials and public health officials. Sponsors. There is so much support for this race and the energy of it all just carries you."

Juehring paused as Prince belted out "Let's Go Crazy."

"Another zip tie is humility," she said. "There's a spirit here and we are all so fortunate to have this gem. Just to be a part of this is humbling."


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