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Wade on the Trail with his dog
Meet the Marathon’s, 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

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 TBK Quad Cities Marathon, Trinity’s Freedom Run, the Genesis Firecracker Run, and Ganzo’s Cinco De Mayo Run. Joe is busy getting ready for the QC Marathon on September 25-26, 2021.

How are the 2021 Marathon weekend events shaping up?

With two weeks to go, and it’s a good kind of crazy, which is rare! We want to capitalize on the fact it’s our last year to run over the I-74 bridge. We are creating the opportunity for anyone to walk, stroll, or jog over the old span. I expect a lot of walkers who’d like to take that scenic route. We’ve announced the Palmer 5K, with two options: fast and flat on River Drive or runners and walkers who’d like take the scenic route over the I-74 bridge and wave goodbye to the old span.

When will runners use the new I-74 span?

We won’t use it until 2022. Everyone is using the old I-74 span one last time. The distance runners are taking the old span earlier at 7 a.m., while the Palmer 5K begins at 7:15 so those participants can cross the old span, too.

How have you coped with COVID and the races?

Joe says the Freedom Run is entirely military themed, from the music to the awards. The race even begins with a canon fired by the Arsenal Colonel!

These last 18 months have been tough on all of us – our families, friends, community, and our world. But, it’s good to see that we’re back! Nationally, races are running 35 percent fewer participants than pre-COVID events in 2019. But, fortunately for the Quad Cities, we’re only about 15-20 percent below where we were pre-COVID. We are a strong running, fitness community!

What got you started in running?

My running started by accident, I never intended to be a life-long runner. As a trouble 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 45 years later I’m still running.

How often and how many miles do you personally run a week?

I run about 3 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?

Race Director Joe Marino is a fixture at the finish line of the Quad Cities Marathon run every fall.

I became the Race Director in 1996, 2 years before the first QC Marathon (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 about 11 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-five’. 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, those 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 personal on race day on your race course. 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 lastly, 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 ten times more entities to coordinate with.

We understand you are also race director for the Firecracker, the Freedom, and Ganzo’s Cinco De Mayo Runs. How did you get started with these races?

The Genesis Firecracker Run was my first race to direct, when I met with John Perez, the founder and race director over 25 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 Trinity’s 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 who 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.

My latest role as race director occurred when the Puente family of Davenport, who owns Ganzo’s restaurant, approached me to race direct a 5K for them. I told them I would do it for one year and it’s been six years! The route starts and finishes on Marquette Street in Davenport, right in front of the restaurant. This race has grown from about 400 to 1300 runners. It’s held the first weekend in May and benefits programs addressing autism.

Talk about your own personal health struggles and how running has kept you strong.

I’ve had a life-changing experience with my minor 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, and 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?

I believe the surge and popularity is due to the emphasis on health and fitness. 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 gives you the most satisfaction as a race director?

I enjoy what I am doing and supporting the fitness community in every race. There is also a real feeling of accomplishment when you are doing it for a purpose or a cause. I am so proud and honored that all of the races I direct make a direct impact on the Quad Cities. TBK Bank’s Quad City Marathon benefits the prostate cancer initiative as well as a cause called, “Run with Us/Shoes for Kids,” to inspire kids to run. As I mentioned, Ganzos’ run benefits autism, and the Trinity Freedom run’s proceeds support local military families in need. All of this engages and challenges our entire Quad City area to make our community a better place for everyone.

 

Good luck on September 25th!!

by Joe Moreno, Race Director QC Marathon, Freedom Run and Genesis Firecracker Run

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 TBK Quad Cities Marathon, Trinity’s Freedom Run, the Genesis Firecracker Run, and Ganzo’s Cinco De Mayo Run. Joe is busy getting ready for the QC Marathon on September 25-26, 2021.

How are the 2021 Marathon weekend events shaping up?

With two weeks to go, and it’s a good kind of crazy, which is rare! We want to capitalize on the fact it’s our last year to run over the I-74 bridge. We are creating the opportunity for anyone to walk, stroll, or jog over the old span. I expect a lot of walkers who’d like to take that scenic route. We’ve announced the Palmer 5K, with two options: fast and flat on River Drive or runners and walkers who’d like take the scenic route over the I-74 bridge and wave goodbye to the old span.

When will runners use the new I-74 span?

We won’t use it until 2022. Everyone is using the old I-74 span one last time. The distance runners are taking the old span earlier at 7 a.m., while the Palmer 5K begins at 7:15 so those participants can cross the old span, too.

How have you coped with COVID and the races?

Joe says the Freedom Run is entirely military themed, from the music to the awards. The race even begins with a canon fired by the Arsenal Colonel!

These last 18 months have been tough on all of us – our families, friends, community, and our world. But, it’s good to see that we’re back! Nationally, races are running 35 percent fewer participants than pre-COVID events in 2019. But, fortunately for the Quad Cities, we’re only about 15-20 percent below where we were pre-COVID. We are a strong running, fitness community!

What got you started in running?

My running started by accident, I never intended to be a life-long runner. As a trouble 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 45 years later I’m still running.

How often and how many miles do you personally run a week?

I run about 3 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?

Race Director Joe Marino is a fixture at the finish line of the Quad Cities Marathon run every fall.

I became the Race Director in 1996, 2 years before the first QC Marathon (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 about 11 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-five’. 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, those 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 personal on race day on your race course. 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 lastly, 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 ten times more entities to coordinate with.

We understand you are also race director for the Firecracker, the Freedom, and Ganzo’s Cinco De Mayo Runs. How did you get started with these races?

The Genesis Firecracker Run was my first race to direct, when I met with John Perez, the founder and race director over 25 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 Trinity’s 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 who 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.

My latest role as race director occurred when the Puente family of Davenport, who owns Ganzo’s restaurant, approached me to race direct a 5K for them. I told them I would do it for one year and it’s been six years! The route starts and finishes on Marquette Street in Davenport, right in front of the restaurant. This race has grown from about 400 to 1300 runners. It’s held the first weekend in May and benefits programs addressing autism.

Talk about your own personal health struggles and how running has kept you strong.

I’ve had a life-changing experience with my minor 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, and 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?

I believe the surge and popularity is due to the emphasis on health and fitness. 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 gives you the most satisfaction as a race director?

I enjoy what I am doing and supporting the fitness community in every race. There is also a real feeling of accomplishment when you are doing it for a purpose or a cause. I am so proud and honored that all of the races I direct make a direct impact on the Quad Cities. TBK Bank’s Quad City Marathon benefits the prostate cancer initiative as well as a cause called, “Run with Us/Shoes for Kids,” to inspire kids to run. As I mentioned, Ganzos’ run benefits autism, and the Trinity Freedom run’s proceeds support local military families in need. All of this engages and challenges our entire Quad City area to make our community a better place for everyone.

 

Good luck on September 25th!!