Joe Moreno donned a court jester's hat for full effect Thursday night.|
"Let's have some fun!" the Quad City Marathon's founding race director implored during the event's annual kickoff at Moline's Twenty Sports Bar & Grill.
With many of the race's loyal sponsors, committee members and volunteers on hand, Moreno was holding court with a message to kick up the fun this fall, when the ever-growing event runs the local city streets for the 14th time Sept. 25.
Presented again by The National Bank, the QC Marathon drew nearly 5,000 participants to its six races of varying distances.
"I've been running for over 40 years, and it took one of my children reminding me the other day, 'Life is a marathon, so you better enjoy it,'" Moreno said with his ever-youthful enthusiasm.
"We already have a 'Party in Motion.' We have bands and entertainment on the course. We have the party zones on (Moline's) River Drive. We have a great post-race party.
"But the challenge of our committee this year is not to just deliver what's expected of us, but to also pull a surprise or two. Runners are so stressed out about their (finishing) time at races. But is there something else we can do where they can go home saying, 'Wow, that was fun!'"
No matter the additions between now and then, the fun already includes a corporate challenge issued by Moreno, a world-renowned featured speaker and the return of the popular 2008 marathon course.
The Group O Corporate Challenge, an event in which Moreno sees the most room for growth, offers local businesses and organizations, both large and small, the chance to compete for participation bragging rights and a traveling trophy.
"Talk about something where a company can show it's really committed to improving the health of its employees and also have a great time doing it," Moreno said.
That's a message seconded by Bart Yasso, this year's speaker during the pre-race events, including the Noodles & Co. Pasta Party. The acclaimed U.S. biathlete has participated in everything from marathons to Ironman competitions and other endurance events.
The course change, the third in three years for the marathon, takes out the need to use the Rock Island-to-Moline portion of the Mississippi Riverfront bike path, forced by last year's construction on the Arsenal Island bridge in Moline.
Work on Bettendorf's Lincoln Road overpass of I-74 also forced a course change in 2009.
"That's one thing that I've lost a lot of hair and sleep about over the years," Moreno admitted. "Hopefully, we can sit down with our municipalities after this year and settle on a course that won't change in the future.
"We've been exploring our options, with the completion of the bike path in Bettendorf. Maybe that could help us cut down on some of the out-and-backs on our course, that are so hard on a runner's mentality."
While that announcement remains miles away, Moreno was able to confirm two other bits of news.
The race remains supportive of the Prostate Cancer Awareness initiative locally but also has added the Erika Kate Foundation as another charity of choice. That organization, founded by Aledo natives Rich and Traci Maynard, benefits families fighting the financial hardships of having a child battling heart disease.
"They've been so passionate, bringing more and more involvement with them since they started running our race two years ago, adding them to the mix was a no-brainer," Moreno said after awarding last year's ceremonial check to the Us, Too charity. "So as we grow as a race, so grows our mission."
Moreno also successfully has recruited world-renowned Davenport artist Ralph Iaccarino to create this year's commemorative race artwork. Previous works have been auctioned or raffled off for charity, with special poster prints as perks for race participants.
"I'm just lucky to keep talking all of these great local artists into creating something memorable for us for free," Moreno said while making a special presentation.
"Ralph's not a runner, but he's been really sucked into this. He even promised to do our race. He's tried to back track, claiming he doesn't have running shoes, so I went out and got him this (a new pair) myself (Wednesday night)."
Painted into a corner, Iaccarino may want to opt to join the Cobham Marathon Training Group, which has helped hundreds reach the finish line over the last decade. The 16-week program costs $50, begins June 5, and includes a discounted race entry. For more information, call Running Wild manager John Parker at (563) 326-1942.
Registration and other information for the event itself is available at a revamped Website, www.qcmarathon.org.
— What is it? A six-race event Sept. 24-25. Distances included a 26.2-mile full marathon, a 13.1-mile half-marathon, a 5-person marathon relay, a 5K run, a 1-mile "Walk for the Cause," and a kids' micro-marathon. All but the kids' race start at 7:30 a.m., Sunday, Sept. 25, in front of the i wireless Center in downtown Moline. For registration info, please visit www.qcmarathon.org or call (309) 751-9800.
— Pre-race events: The kids' race — which offers distances of a mile, half-mile and quarter-mile — anchors the Sept. 24 events leading up to the big races. Also at Bass Street Landing are jump houses, balloons, face painting and, to all participants, Happy Joe's Pizza, t-shirts and goodie bags. The i wireless Center also hosts the ORA Orthopedics Health and Fitness Expo and Noodles & Co. Pasta Party.
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