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Quad-City Times Bix 7 Race Director Michelle Juehring: The pandemic is 'not stopping us'

Quad-City Times Bix 7 Race Director Michelle Juehring: The pandemic is 'not stopping us'

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Michelle Juehring rises at 4 a.m.

There is a run in her morning — often with friends — and prayer. She closes her day in prayer as well.

The Quad-City Times Bix 7 race director, in her first year and in the midst of a global pandemic that has disrupted races everywhere, speaks with a grateful giggle and a schoolgirl laugh about mornings with her husband, Dave, and two teenagers, Dane and Shelby, who brighten — and sometimes challenge — her day.

A walking, talking — and running — dynamo, Juehring wastes no time worrying about a silly cliche regarding a half-filled or half-empty glass. Each day is a blessing, and the glass for the 52-year-old Wisconsin native and daughter of a teacher and school superintendent, is always full.

In good times and in not-so-good. And there have been both along life's path.

Today, there is a challenge. The race, which typically draws thousands to the Quad-Cities for race day, will be run virtually this year because of COVID-19 concerns. Today's Brady Street hill to climb — and it's personal, because Juehring loves her job and what it represents and means to her community — is making a world-class road race relevant in the middle of a pandemic.

"We are not alone,'' Juehring said, ticking off names of some of the nation's elite road races, some moved to fall dates in hopes of the coronavirus slowing and others cancelled in 2020. "We have pivoted, turned to the best and safest way we know how to make the Bix special, to still run with the best. I learned how to trust others, listen to those around you — and I have some of the best around me. We are moving ahead.''

This pivot is not life or death. Fighting stage 3 breast cancer — with a husband and two little ones to care for at the time — was. Juehring and doctors have declared victory in that battle, and in comparison, other challenges don't seem as daunting.

But even a virtual race leaves a big hole. It typically features a month of training runs, and three days of races and other activities in July. There are around 15,000 participants, 150 committees, 5,000 volunteers, elite runners from around the world and sometimes as many as 50,000 spectators.

It is big, it is fun and it is important to many in the Quad-Cities and beyond.

It has caused sleepless nights and worry-filled days, because Juehring cares. Every bib number, every volunteer, sponsor and anyone associated with bringing the Quad City Times Bix 7 to life, means something to her.

"How do you not appreciate the selfless approach of so many?," asks Juehring, who has competed in every Quad-Cities Marathon, and has also ran the Chicago Marathon and competed in an Ironman triathlon. "You see it everywhere. People care about their race.''

Despite the challenges, Juehring says bringing the Quad-City Times Bix 7 to the world in 2020 is working. Virtually.

"So it's finally my turn (to be the Bix 7 race director) and a pandemic hits,'' said Juehring. "It is NOT stopping us.''

The spirit of the Quad-City Times Bix 7 is unchanged, she said. Those involved can still "run with the best,'' but at a safe distance, through July 25.

Participants can run the Bix 7, the Prairie Farms Quick Bix or the Arconic Jr. Bix however and wherever, they'd like — a sidewalk, treadmill, trail, living room or track. They submit their finishing times online. Each registered runner gets a T-shirt, and coupons for a Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwich and a Whitey's popsicle — well loved treats from the after party — among other swag.

In the middle of outlining a plethora of virtual Bix race options, Juehring pauses. A smile catches her face. Truth is, Juehring always smiles.

She mentions her parents, who ran a two-mile Prairie Farms Quick Bix on the 4th of July and had their own post-race party with family. She talks glowingly about former Bix 7 operations director Ellen Hermiston and her operations partner Laura Torgerud. Then she smiles and places her hand at her heart. She mentions Ed Froehlich, the legendary Bix 7 race director and the man she succeeded. 

For four-plus decades, he led the world famous seven-mile road race, taking it to heights few would have guessed in its 45 years. The Quad-City Times Bix 7 is one of the elite road races in the world, with runners from all 50 states and a bevy of foreign lands.

"You don't replace a legend, everyone knows that,'' Juehring said, referring to Froehlich. "You just don't mess up what they did. I am blessed to have Ed in my life.''

 

Columnist John Marx can be reached at 309 757 8388 or jmarx@qconline.com

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