East Falls native Jim Marino joined the Philadelphia department of Parks and Recreation 36 years ago and he hasn’t turned back since, working his way up to be director of well-known Philadelphia events like this weekend’s 10-mile Broad Street Run.
He began working the race in 1984. That year he was responsible for turning on the fire hydrants and getting the start area ready for the racers.
Today he’s behind all the major parts of the race, including security. Since Marino took the helm in 1998, the race has grown to the eighth-largest in the country and the largest 10-miler.
The race, which is a practical tour through Philadelphia — streching from West Fisher Avenue into the Navy Yard — shows off all of Philadelphia.
“It makes us shine all the way down Broad Street,” he said. “The runners get to experience the true flavor of Philadelphia — the poorest neighborhoods to universities to City Hall to the Avenue of the Arts to South Philly to the stadiums to Navy Yard.”
The race uses the efforts of 175 Parks and Rec employees and over 125 volunteer groups to pull of the day’s events. Marino added that he’s enjoyed seeing the race evolve and change over the years, including the race make-up, which is now over 50 percent women runners. The early days were entirely male-dominated.
Marino, who now lives in Roxborough, started off his career working in recreation centers throughout Northwest Philadelphia, including Roxborough’s Kendrick Center, Manayunk’s Venice Island and East Falls’ McDevitt Recreation Center. He’s coached the 21st ward junior league baseball team as well.
He added that many of his former players now run the Broad Street Run. That makes him feel that his community work has come “full circle.”
The best thing about Philadelphia’s neighborhoods, he said, is that you can always find people who will “rally around you.”
He gave the recent death of Roxborough native Shane Montgomery as an example. Montgomery went missing Thanksgiving morning and was found in the Schuylkill five weeks later. During that time, the community organized searches, raised money for the Montgomery family and spread the word.
“There are a lot of good people in these neighborhoods,” he said. “That’s the true fabric of Philadelphia.”