The Power of One

How Philadelphia Celebrated Joe’s Race

It’s one of the most energizing days of the year throughout the city of Philadelphia.  And over the last 25 years, the first Sunday in May has emerged as one of the most iconic, instantly recognizable events the city has to offer.  It’s the Broad Street Run. 

Today, the Philadelphia athletic community can barely think of this time of year without thinking about the spectacle of 40,000 runners bouncing along the main vein of the city.  And to think, the spectacle that’s grown to include people from all walks of life, from all across the city, the country, and the world, got started in large part due to the efforts of one man.

Joe Cook was a beloved member of the City of Philadelphia’s Parks & Recreation Department.  And from 1982-1995, he served as the first long-term Race Director of the Broad Street Run.  He took a race that was struggling – it had just over 1,000 participants at the time if you could imagine that today – and turned it into a can’t miss event that is a point of pride for the city each year.

Many times, the people who make huge events like these happen fly under the radar. That’s Joe Cook...it would be wonderful to showcase the achievements of the man in front of the audience that may have never gotten to know him.

His colleagues and friends told us that it was his personality, passion, and desire to collaborate with organizations across the city that helped turn the race around.  And it was those same colleagues and friends who wanted to share his story with the world, and pay tribute to an influential man who died of cancer this year at the age of 65.  Although Cook officially stepped down as Race Director in 1995, he remained an important member of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and a valuable resource for the Broad Street Run.  This year’s event will be the first conducted without the comfort of his watchful eye.

 Joe Cook, before becoming Race Director of the Broad Street Run, served and was wounded in the Vietnam War.

Joe Cook, before becoming Race Director of the Broad Street Run, served and was wounded in the Vietnam War.

Many times, the people who make huge events like these happen fly under the radar.  That’s Joe Cook.  He wasn’t a prominent name like a Mayor or Governor would be, but the influence of one person who encouraged and got others involved deserves recognition, even if he would never ask for it himself.  That’s where his friends came in.  The Parks & Rec Department thought it would be wonderful to showcase the achievements of the man in front of the audience that may have never gotten to know him.  And their tribute to Joe will be shown in front of the 40,000 participants, organizers, city officials and more throughout this weekend – at the Race Expo, and at the Start and Finish lines of the run – places Joe spent much of his time.

From a production standpoint, we are always honored to get an opportunity to share stories like these.  And they’re an awful lot of fun to produce.  First, we get to learn a lot about an organization we didn’t know much about before.  Much like the rest of the city, we had no idea how much time, effort, and organization it takes to put together an event like the Broad Street Run.  We got to meet so many members of the Philadelphia Parks & Rec Department – past and present – who shared so many cool personal stories, not just about Joe, but about community leaders, politicians, organizations, and regular people who came together to make the run such a go-to event each year.

 George Karalius (left) is one of many colleagues to remember and honor their friend, Joe Cook, ahead of the 2016 Independence Blue Cross Broad Street Run.

George Karalius (left) is one of many colleagues to remember and honor their friend, Joe Cook, ahead of the 2016 Independence Blue Cross Broad Street Run.

We also got the opportunity to work with so much awesome archival material.  Most of the time when we produce videos today, we’re starting from scratch.  No b-roll, no imagery.  We shoot and create every piece of imagery that makes it into the final product.  But when you work on a video about an event with so much history, you get to dig into old newspaper articles, news stories, photo galleries, and personal artifacts to help show the growth of the run under Joe’s leadership.  We had quite literally hundreds of photos and video clips from races ranging from the mid-80s to today.  We also had the good fortune of working with a multi-talented person from the Parks & Rec Department in John McBride, whose desire to tell Joe’s story the right way was matched by his wittiness, his organization of our interview subjects and locations, and his awesome voiceover work in this piece.  There’s a producer deep down in there somewhere.

Another fun aspect of our work is when our “project worlds” collide.  Last year, we covered the Broad Street Run for the first time, but for an entirely different reason.  In 2015, we got to profile members of the Darren Daulton Foundation, who were running on behalf of the former Phillies’ great catcher.  That was our first glimpse at the massive size of the event.  Fast-forward to this year – and the imagery that we captured in 2015 is now a centerpiece in our new project.  It’s always ironically convenient when those things happen, and funny enough, the longer we’ve been in business, the more often that kind of thing happens.  Philadelphia, while a humungous city, is also a small town, if that makes sense.

We were excited to be a part of this year’s Broad Street Run.  We’re hoping the video allowed people to see how big an impact one man made on such a signature event.  On Sunday, more than ever, the city celebrated Joe’s Race.  

Contact Rob Czyzewicz