When Arizona Distance Classic co-founder John Corbett was 43 years old, his doctor told him if he didn’t get active, he might not see his 50th birthday. 

Consequences of a high-stress job, little physical activity, and a poor diet, the news of his depleting health served as a jump-start for Corbett, who at that moment, began down a path that would change his world and eventually make him a well-known fitness advocate in Oro Valley.

“That was my ‘Aha moment’,” said Corbett. “That got me out the door, and I started to walk and run. It was a long-term process – I mean, this was 17 years ago.”

As he began to see and feel the results of his efforts, Corbett became fit enough to join a 5K event.

“That was the day I fell in love with being around it,” said Corbett, whose admiration for fitness led him to open All About Running & Walking in Oro Valley in 2001. “After that, we started to put on the same types of events with organizations I was involved in. I really liked it.”

Through his growing advocacy of such events, Corbett met John Bingham and David Babner, owners of the Chicago Distance Classic, who both agreed that Oro Valley would be a great place to begin their next venture for a distance event. 

Corbett began taking the necessary steps to bring the event to life, getting approval for the event from the Parks and Recreation Board and Town Council before establishing the layout of the course with the input of the Oro Valley Police Department.

“John really spearheaded the project,” said Babner, ADC race director. “He really wanted to look at a world-class event in Oro Valley. It was amazing to see his drive, and he has been instrumental since year one – he’s really the face of the event.”

Corbett, who has seen the ADC grow in popularity each year, said the original idea came with many progressive steps, but little resistance.

“It was a good 18 months or so of just base-building and finding out if the community even wanted it,” said Corbett. “There was a lot of groundwork, but there was very little negativity about it in the community.”

In collaboration with Ventana Medical Systems’ Director of Facilities Gregg Forszt, it was agreed that the race would begin and end in Ventana’s parking lot. Ventana Medical Systems, now a sponsor of the event, became a key partner in collecting volunteers.

“Gregg has done amazing things to make this happen,” said Corbett. “He’s pretty low-key, and he doesn’t talk about his accolades, but he has been a huge driving force behind the success of this event.”

Such partnerships have continued through this year’s Arizona Distance Classic, which takes place on March 24.

“We’ve had unbelievable support from the town, from the volunteers, the participants, from the police department – it just runs really, really well, primarily on the strength of so many people coming together for sort of the same cause,” Corbett said. “Everyone has a little piece of what they are responsible for. I truly believe this is good for the community, and if it’s good for the community, it’s good for all of us.” 

For more information on the Arizona Distance Classic or to register, visit www.arizonadistanceclassic.com.

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