When John Blair warms up for Colorado State University’s annual Homecoming 5K Race, his thoughts wander not to running, but to his lifelong connection with the university.
“Homecoming is a special time to remember CSU. I consider it a privilege to attend, to graduate, to trace my career from college days, to retire happy and healthy,” said Blair, a 1974 graduate who had a career in trust administration at a Loveland bank. “I met my wife at CSU. The university became integral in my life. These thoughts are prevalent at each race morning.”
This year’s event at 8 a.m. on Oct. 15 at the CSU Oval supports the department’s Adult Fitness Program, a low-cost exercise program and gym open to anyone in the community which also serves as a practicum site for health and exercise science students.
Early bird adult tickets for the Homecoming 5K are $30 and are available until Oct. 12. Youth tickets are $20. Group discounts are available by request at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is also a virtual option to participate from anywhere around the globe.
Blair first participated in the 5K in the mid-1980s and ran each year unless his job took him out of town. He plans on running this year. But his involvement with Adult Fitness began in 1977.
“Without a job, I participated in the morning classes,” Blair said. “In 1982 or so, I followed Tomiko Takeda, high impact aerobics instructor, from the Fort Collins fitness programs to CSU. The benefits included healthy exercise and friendships. I still see a classmate periodically for a hike or bike ride.”
Blair still races and swims. He has encouraged co-workers and friends to join Adult Fitness as well. He sees the benefits of lifelong fitness and mutual respect.
“I see students interacting with senior participants. Both individuals establish a bond of respect,” Blair said. “Seniors stay active. Students gain an appreciation for mature adults.”
The best advice
For retired sports writer Karen Allen, her relationship with the Adult Fitness Program began in 2008 after she moved to Fort Collins from the Washington, D.C., area.
“I asked friends for recommendations on everything from what grocery stores and restaurants I should try to where to live and what doctors to use,” Allen said. “They had a lot of good suggestions, but by far the best turned out to be telling me to check out Adult Fitness on the CSU campus.
“I ran my first Homecoming 5K that fall in 2008, and have shown up every year since, except once a few years ago when a snowstorm hit overnight the day before the race. I’m not the most graceful person in the world, and I thought only bad things could happen if I tried to slip-slide through the drifts.”
Allen plans to run, or rather go “slogging” through the course, which she describes as “run/shuffle/walk.”
“I am planning to run-walk-slog it again this year,” she said. “It’s so much fun, and I love hanging out with all the folks who I haven’t seen for a while.”
‘Dedicated to the program’
Allen said she always has tried to stay fit, but that the staff members at Adult Fitness are the most committed, energetic folks she’s ever met.
“Going to the gym became a much more personal experience than it ever had been before,” she said. “It almost reminds you of the joy you felt as a kid when the bell rang and it was time to go out and play for recess. It’s just a very fun and fulfilling thing to go to Adult Fitness.”
Kimberly Burke, a 2012 and 2014 CSU graduate, is an instructor and the director of Adult Fitness. She said Allen is “an unbelievably hard worker and is willing to try anything her student trainers throw at her.”
Burke said Blair regularly participates in local races, promotes local theater and attends educational courses for older adults.
“They’re both fabulous people who have been very dedicated to the program in what it does for them and their health, and helping students,” Burke said.
Leaving a legacy
John and his wife Anne (a 1976 CSU graduate) have established scholarships in their names for the College of Liberal Arts (John) and for the College of Health and Human Sciences (Anne).
“My wife and I had no children. We are leaving no progeny as a legacy,” Blair said. “Instead, we established scholarships for our respective colleges and fund them on an annual basis. Our estates will complete these programs for future undergraduates. It’s a great joy to hear from recipients.”
Allen still keeps in touch with some of her former student trainers.
“I have lived in many places around the country, and I’ve never met as many friendly, kind, and downright fascinating people as those I’ve met through Adult Fitness,” she said. “I did not realize how attached I was to it until the COVID shutdown. I missed my time there more than any other activity that was lost.”