It is usually all hands-on deck for Quad City Race Director, Joe Moreno and his faithful QC running team. But it’s been anything but that lately for the last two months as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a national hands free policy and social distancing making community running events in the Quad Cities a thing of the past…or so we thought.
Moreno, along with many other area race directors, have gone virtual. And with the help of his team and especially Assistant Race Director Laura “Witty” Wittnebel created the COVID 19K, ¼ Marathon and 5K. “Originally for the Covid 19K, our goal was to get 250 participants,” explained Wittnebal. “Currently we are over 950 participants. Its crazy!” For the entire month of April, runners were able to register just like any other race except the kicker was with it being virtual, you picked the when and where. And when you completed your run, you enter your time online. “I think virtual running can be positive for people to have time to reflect and have some “me” time and family time,” said Wittnebel. “Also going virtual does have the benefit of people being able to run on their own schedule.”
Anyone that knows Joe Moreno, knows that giving back to community is always top on his list with the events he’s behind. And the COVID 19K was no different, as when it said that proceeds from that race would go to area first responders, he made sure to cover as much ground as possible. “It went into three different elements,” explained Moreno. “Element one was we bought hand sanitizer for all the local police departments and we delivered them last week. Element two was we purchased hundreds of gift cards for lunch or dinner from Ganzo’s Restaurant, Rudy’s Tacos and Adolph’s. The connection there is that they are a sponsor of our races and that’s why I went to them, to help our sponsors out. They are struggling like many other restaurants in town. Those gift cards went to the two hospitals, Genesis and Trinity and they disperse them out throughout their different branches and shifts working the front line. And the third element is starting to take place this week and is going towards mostly our sponsors. A lot of our sponsors had to lay people off or cut hours, so we are giving them a $100 check for those employees. And they have to nominate the person. We are trying to spread it out to help all the sponsors. And believe it or not, there are sponsors that are declining it and saying, ‘we are going to be ok, give that to someone else that needs it more’.”
As registration is closed now for the COVID 19K, registration is still open for a race near and dear to the heart of Moreno, the Ganzo’s Cinco de Mayo 5K. “That was a hard one because that was the first one of our series that we do,” said Moreno. “It’s not just a race raising funds for a good cause like the autism center, it’s a fiesta. It’s a traditional fiesta.”
So, what does the future of racing look like for the Quad Cities and specifically Moreno and his future races? The Genesis Firecracker Run is next up for he and his team. “If we get the green light for July 4th, we are still are going to offer a virtual race,” said Moreno. “The new normal is completely different and from now on we are going to offer with all our races a virtual option. A lot of races did that anyway, they just called it something else.”
As we are all getting used to the new normal, navigating this scary time in history is challenging and life changing for some. In the running community, if you can look at this like a long run, sometimes you don’t know if you can continue and things change along the way, but you keep going and always find your way to the finish line. For Moreno and his team, they are doing the same, one virtual race at a time. “We don’t have a race just to have a race, there is always a purpose and meaning with our races,” explained Moreno. “With all our races we are trying to tweak it or adjust it and do something new. I think everyone will bounce back.”
For more information or to register for the Ganzo’s Cinco de Mayo 5K visit, https://www.ganzos5k.com/covid-19/