PEOPLE WHO direct the annual Blue Cross Broad Street Run, the nation's largest 10-mile road race, are inclined to call it "Joe's race."

That would be for Joe Cook, the race's director from 1982 to 1995, credited with developing it from rather humble beginnings to the present event that draws thousands of runners from all over.

"Joe Cook was my mentor, friend and guiding force in the success of the Broad Street Run for many years," said Jim Marino, the current race director.

"The race was his baby, and he brought it from infancy to the teenage years with great success. I have always said that the Broad Street Run was Joe's race, and that I just happened to be carrying the torch in following his example."

Joseph P. Cook, longtime employee of the Philadelphia Recreation Department, who also helped direct the Philadelphia Marathon, died Friday of cancer. He was 65.

Joe himself didn't run, because of severe shrapnel wounds in his legs suffered as a combat soldier in Vietnam.

He was fascinated by World War II since his father, Joseph, had been a German prisoner of war in Stalag 17. After graduating from West Catholic High School in 1968, Joe thought of making the Army a career.

Like many combat veterans, Joe didn't like to talk about his experiences, but eventually he told former Daily News sports writer Bill Fleischman about what happened to him in Vietnam in May 1970.

Joe was a medic attached to the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry, when he and other soldiers found themselves trapped in a minefield near My Lai.

Thanks to the heroics of Norman Schwarzkopf, then a lieutenant colonel and 1st Battalion commander, Joe and some others were rescued, but many didn't make it as mines were exploding around them.

Schwarzkopf, who became a general and was a hero of the 1990 Desert Storm campaign, was piloting a helicopter when he got the radio message about the plight of the soldiers.

"He landed and gave up his helicopter to get guys out," Joe related. "He and his captain stayed. Guys all around me were hit, and I didn't have a scratch on me. We went to two guys who needed attention and all of a sudden a big mine went off. It killed the two guys I was patching and killed my medic. I had multiple shrapnel wounds of the legs, arms and chest.

"Schwarzkopf got me out. The next day, he pinned a Purple Heart on me."

After nine months of rehabilitation at Valley Forge Military Hospital, Joe enrolled at Temple University, graduating in 1975. He then joined the Recreation Department.

Even after relinquishing control of the Broad Street Run in 1995, Joe couldn't let it go completely. It was, after all, his baby.

"He always kept an eye on me to make sure we were doing things the right way," Jim Marino said. "I always appreciated his comments and critiques. These critiques continued to help me build upon his great work."

Joe is survived by three sisters, Joanna Morrison, Mary Faulkner and Bernadette McLaughlin; and two brothers, Andy and James. He was predeceased by another sister, Lenora Cook.

Services: Funeral Mass 11 a.m. today at St. Francis de Sales Church, 47th Street and Springfield Avenue. Friends may call at 9 a.m. Burial will be at Ss. Peter and Paul Cemetery, Marple.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Heroes' Crossing, Philadelphia Veterans Community Living Center, 3461 Civic Center Blvd., Philadelphia, 19104.