Let’s Move Quad Cities celebrates the spirit and determination Quad City area residents take to promote movement and fitness. We welcome guest blogger, Joe Moreno, race director for the Quad Cities Marathon, Freedom Run and Genesis Firecracker Run. We asked Joe to not only talk about his passion for running, but how he’s overcome his own health challenges as well as what it’s like to manage 3 popular road races in the Quad Cities.
By Joe Moreno, Race Director QC Marathon, Freedom Run and Genesis Firecracker Run
What got you started in running?
My running started by accident, I never intended to be a life-long runner. As a troubled young teen, 2 volunteers from the Youth Service Bureau came to my home one Saturday morn and whisked me away, they counseled me, inspired me, and they happened to be runners. Inevitably I started running with them. In time I was hooked, started running races, and years later I’m still running.
How often and how many miles do you personally run a week?
I’m only running 3 or 4 times a week now. In my prime it was about every day, and during marathon training I’d average 50 miles a week.
How did you become the QC Marathon’s race director?
I became the QCM Race Director in 1996, 2 years before the first QCM (in 1998). In other words it took 2 years of planning and coordinating, I felt this area deserved to have its own marathon. Prior to that we would travel to Chicago, Twin Cities, Indianapolis, St Louis, for the nearest marathons. We’ve seen considerable growth over the years and today have several local QC charities benefiting from the QCM proceeds.
What’s your peak QC Marathon experience?
It’s being at the Finish Line and receiving (welcoming) every finisher with a ‘High-5.’ For some, finishing the marathon, perhaps their first and/or only marathon of their life, is an emotional and monumental moment in their lives. For others, running the 5K could perhaps be the marathon of their life, to congratulate them at the finish line is climactic.
Any close calls or stressful moments in your years as a race director?
YES, the darn trains, the inevitable road construction, the dreaded call on race morning that a runner has ‘gone down’! Is it a death, a heart attack, a simple fall? I take every race participant’s health and safety very personally on race day. It’s a stress and pressure that most people never experience.
What’s the biggest challenge of organizing the Marathon?
I’d say the biggest challenge is three-fold:
1) Seeking and soliciting sponsors, I hate to ask for money. But it’s a necessary evil, you can’t do it without sponsors.
2) Marketing the event, the word ‘Marathon’ scares people away. We have to make the public aware of the fact that we’re ‘More Than A Marathon!’, that there’s other distances and elements to the race day, like the 5-person relay, the 5K, the half marathon, the 1-mile walk, and the kids’ races.
3) A big undertaking is the fact that our event has to traverse multiple municipalities, thereby working with multiple police departments, a military installation, several bridges, coordination with the Iowa and Illinois DOTs, and railroad crossings.
Most marathons across the country have only one municipality and one police department to deal with, we have 10 times more entities to coordinate with.
We understand you are also race director for the Firecracker Run and the Freedom Run. How did you get started with these races?
The Firecracker Run was my first race to direct. I met with John Perez, the founder and race director, over 26 years ago to get some pointers on starting a new race. I wanted to raise some funds for local park equipment improvements and I walked out of his home 3 hours later with his race.
For the Freedom Run, having all our children in the military in some capacity I’ve developed a great appreciation for those who serve our country AND their families. I was made aware of some local military families that were struggling while their loved one is away and deployed so I thought we should have a race that helps those military families in need.
Do you work full time and organize these 3 races?!!
Fortunately I’m retired now (from my real job of 35 years) at 3M Company. I look back and wonder how in the world did I organize all these races, helped out with many others, coached my kids in youth sports, served on several community organizations, worked a full time (40+ hrs/wk) job, served my community 16 years on the City Council (last 4 as Mayor), and devoted lots of time to training for marathons. I think I missed some sleep sometimes.
There’s no way I could have accomplished anything without a great and supportive family like I’m blessed to have. My wife and 4 adult children are my biggest supporters! Even our grandchildren get involved!
Talk about your own personal health struggles and how running has kept you strong.
I had a stroke in 2013. It’s changed the way I think. I used to think that just because I was fit and in shape that I was healthy. Not so! Being fit doesn’t necessarily mean you’re healthy. I’m living proof of that. A proper diet is just as important as physical fitness. Together they make a difference in one’s overall health. My doctors informed me that if I wasn’t in such reasonably good shape my stroke could have had a much different outcome.
Why do think running has grown in popularity for all ages?
Running is such an affordable sport. Compared to many other sports and activities, running is nominal in cost. It’s one of those activities that can be a ‘life changer.’ As it has for me, it can easily become a ‘way of life.’
What do you say to a person who thinks they can’t run?
I truly believe that running is NOT for everyone. I’ve seen it time and time again where an individual tried it and just couldn’t ‘get into it.’ In many cases unfortunately they really didn’t give running a fair chance. For those who can’t run, I say ‘walk.’ The benefits of walking are just as good as running, perhaps even more as it’s less wear and tear on joints and body. The key to success is consistency whether you walk or run.
How has running changed your life?
Running has been my faith, my crutch, my drug of choice, and – besides my lovely wife – my best friend. It has opened many door. It clears my mind, makes me feel good, provides a ‘good’ pain. Running has challenged and rewarded me so much.
I truly believe my running has affected my family in a positive way. It gives me great joy to see our children and grandchildren running. It remains my biggest reward and satisfaction, to watch the grandchildren continue the ‘Family Tradition.’
Are there any bucket list running experiences or events you’ve dream of accomplishing?
I’d like to learn how to swim so I can try my hand at Triathlons. And there are countless races and marathons I’d still like to do. I’ve led a fortunate lifestyle, being able to run, travel, live and love. I’m truly blessed.