QuadCities Joe Moreno to be guest speaker at annual banquet

Joseph (Joe) Moreno, Race Director for the Quad Cities Marathon, will be the guest speaker at our Annual SRRC Banquet on January 27, 2018, at Erin’s Pavilion. Joe founded the Quad Cities Marathon in 1997, and he directs two other area races: the Freedom Run and the Firecracker Run. He served on the East Moline City Council from 1989 to 2001, and served as Mayor from 2001 to 2005. SRRC member Megan Styles interviewed Joe this week to learn a little more about his life in running, race directing, and local politics.

A Conversation with Joe Moreno, Race Director for the Quad Cities Marathon

MS: When did you first become a runner?

JM: I was a troubled teenager. I was the last one that anyone would guess would end up successful in life. Back in the early 1970s, it was uncommon for a Hispanic Catholic couple to get divorced, but my parents did. I really struggled with it. My mom couldn’t control me, and I was in trouble at home and in trouble with the law.

One day, two young guys came to my door and asked me to come out with them. They were from an organization called the Youth Service Bureau, and they had volunteered to mentor troubled teens. They took me to the movies and for ice cream, and they just happened to be runners. I kept doing the bad stuff for a while longer because I enjoyed it so much [laughs], but they sort of weaned me away from it. I joined them on some runs and they took me to some races, and I found that I was pretty good at it.

I’ve seen them both since. One became a judge and one became a professor at St. Ambrose University, but at the time, they were just two twenty-something guys looking after a fourteen-year old kid. They were part one of pulling me away from the bad elements. Part two was my wife, Lorna. We were high school sweethearts, and we’ve been married now for almost 41 years. She was a great influence on me, and I’m very fortunate to have that. We have four children, and seven grandchildren now.

MS: How and when did you get started directing races in the Quad Cities?

JM: Since I started running, I’ve been a very active and very consistent runner. I started volunteering at local races, and when you start volunteering, you get a better view of what it takes to put something on. You have an appreciation for what it takes behind-the-scenes. I have four kids, and when they were little, our local park was really in disarray. I would ask the alderman to fix things, and they would just come and remove the playground equipment instead of repairing or replacing it.

I thought I would start a race and give the proceeds to the local parks department so they could afford to make improvements. I went to talk to a good friend who started the Firecracker Run to ask for advice, and wouldn’t you know it, I walked out a few hours later with his race! [laughs] It’s a great run. We do it every year on the Fourth of July, and we just celebrated our 35th anniversary. I’ve been the Race Director for 25 years, and we’ve grown participation from around 700 people to more than 3,000 runners.

MS: That’s impressive! What did you do to promote the race and make it so successful?

JM: I was an active and very competitive runner, and I had been volunteering all the time with other races. That gave me great insight. Going to other races and seeing how other people do stuff has been my biggest asset and my sharpest and best tool for being a Race Director. I’ve always said that this is true of any situation. If you watch and learn from others and apply the lessons to your situation, then your situation is always going to improve.

I also have great appreciation and respect for the volunteers, the race committee, an