Blake Leitch knows better than most how critical it is to stay active and in shape, and he’s on a mission to help others find the motivation to be fit, as well.
An Army veteran of the Iraq War, Leitch serves as a Veteran Service Officer in Charleston, helping fellow veterans to navigate the Veterans Affairs system.
“The majority of vets I work with have chronic health issues like diabetes or heart disease,” Leitch said. “I know that just a small drop in body fat, combined with exercise and counseling can reduce the occurrence of diabetes by 58 percent, and that can vastly improve their health. When these men and women were in the service, they were in phenomenal shape. My goal is to get them moving more, to achieve a higher level of fitness.”
That’s why Leitch is encouraging other veterans to participate in Sarah Bush Lincoln’s annual Races for All Paces event on Saturday, May 13, at Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium.
“Last year, one of our veterans ran while carrying the American Flag, to honor those he served with. He inspired me to reach out to others to get them involved, as well,” Leitch explained. “This is the perfect event for most people.” The race’s longest distance is a half marathon, while the shortest is a pint-sized “diaper dash.”
Leitch is encouraging people who haven’t been active to take the first step, by walking the 1-mile fun run/walk. He encourages people who have been more active to participate in a 5K, 10K or half marathon.
Leitch admits that his desire to get veterans involved in Races for All Paces is a little bit selfish. “I love what I do. It gives me a mission, and I am fortunate to get paid to do it,” he said. “Life in the service was all about mission, and for some veterans, this could be their new mission: to get moving again and to get into better shape.”
“This race really gives veterans a chance to come together to support each other and do what they can do to take either that first step or that next step to ultimately improve their health,” he said.
Races for All Paces is a multi-race, chip-timed event for people of all ages and abilities. It features course support, fruit, water, sports drinks and chocolate milk, plus music, photo booths, inflatables and port-a-potties.
Participants can register online at www.sarahbush.org. For more information, contact Laura Bollan at (217) 345-6828.