“Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Julio Ramirez has followed Confucius’ quote to a T.
The retired Special Operations Soldier, along with his wife, Coco, children Nick, 24, Julie, 22 and Gaby, 11, has built a business around his passion, road racing.
Ramirez, currently an instructor with Company A., 6th Battalion, U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, started running when he was 15 years old. He put together his first event in Costa Rica in 1997, a triathlon with the Costa Rican police.
“They had water and land but no bikes. So I said, ‘let’s do this the military way, give them rucksacks. We had 250 police officers, both male and female, participate. It turned out really good,” he said.
While he was stationed in Puerto Rico in 2001, he decided to plan a fun run for a fund-raiser.
“The timing was perfect. It was right before Cinco de Mayo,” said Ramirez. His sister cooked 50 pounds of steak fajitas for the participants after the race. Thus the John E. Norman Cinco de Mayo race, Ramirez’ signature event, was started.
“That race was the hook for road racing. I have never been able to stop ever since,” he said.
The 12th annual Cinco de Mayo race is Saturday and will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project and the family of John E. Norman, a fellow race enthusiast and friend.
When they moved to Fort Bragg after September 11, 2001, Ramirez decided to continue the Cinco de Mayo race in downtown Fayetteville. After learning how to coordinate with city officials, measure USA Track and Field certified courses, gather sponsors for funding and create marketing plans, he now promotes almost 10 separate running events in the area, including the Jingle Bell 10K, Race for Hope 10K and the Joint Special Operations 10K.
Ramirez learned how to measure courses from Paul Hronjak, a member of the USATF Road Running Technical Council since 1994.
“He was my mentor when it came to USA Track and Field capabilities,” said Ramirez.
In November 2012, Hronjak passed away after a long battle with cancer.
“In gratitude from all the mentorship that he gave me, I named the new track that we will use in 2013 after him,” he said.
Before Ramirez turned promoting road races into a business, he worked with charity organizations and sponsors to raise money for the event.
“We were spending a lot of time and effort putting these events together and we were not getting anything back for us. If you don’t have sponsors, it is hard for an organization like mine to put the event together by ourselves out of our own pocket,” he said.
After two years of research and conversations with lawyers and other business owners, Ramirez decided to start his own business.
“Once we paid the fees and filled out the proper forms, we became Promociones Ramirez and Race Management, LLC. Under that business, I cannot tell you what we do but I’m going to tell you my motto — ‘We make it possible,’” he said.
The word ‘it’ in his slogan can mean anything; skydiving, model instruction, photography, bodybuilding and even catering.
The word ‘possible’ comes from his experience as a special operations Soldier in the 7th Special Forces Group.
“The main thing I got out of (serving in the Army) is the motto I have, “We make it possible.” In special operations, you cannot rely on receiving an order and then going back to your boss saying, “Hey boss, what do you want me to do with this?” No. They give me the order and expect me to make it happen, to make it possible. Whatever it takes, you will make it possible. You tell me something to do, I’m not going to come back until the end product is done and accomplished,” said Ramirez.
His unofficial motto is combining work with pleasure.
“If we’re working, we’re going to have a good time. If you just dedicate yourself to work, you’re going home all stressed out. That’s how we roll,” he said with a laugh.
The business also involves the entire Family and fitness, said Ramirez. Coco, a body builder, personal trainer and Zumba instructor, is the vice-president of the company. The children have also helped out, including Gaby, the youngest.
“She’s in charge of the bouncy house this year,” said Coco. “She told me she was ready.”
Coco’s father, 81-year-old Jose Garcia pitches in as the “tail runner,” said Ramirez.
“He walks behind the last walker so I’ll know that everybody is in,” he said.
Ramirez is also savvy with social media, making sure he hears and considers feedback from race participants.
“We created a costume contest this year (from a runner’s suggestion). It took about a half an hour. Like I said before, it’s the John E. Norman “your” Cinco de Mayo 10K and 5K run. Not mine, it’s yours. Because of the runners, we have changed a lot of things for the event,” he said.
Sometimes the business can be difficult at times, especially dealing with sponsors and charities, said Ramirez. However, he is always prepared with sponsor packages and proposals.
“Prior to getting a fundraiser going, you have to get it approved through that charity organization. When I deal with charity organizations, I give them all my financial records so they can see (where the money came from) that $200 or $300 that we gave them,” he said.
For Soldiers and Family members who want to start a business after leaving the service, Ramirez has this advice for them.
“Go do the research. Get advice from a lawyer, especially when it comes to taxes. It doesn’t take that long to get your business. Once we sent the checks to the IRS and the state, game on, we were ready to go.”