So I’ll admit it, I was a bit skeptical when I first joined F3. I was never quite the ‘sad clown’, but I was one of the guys who worked out at the YMCA every morning and occasionally participated in special event. This joker I knew in the neighborhood and from Y-Guides (whose F3 name is actually ‘Joker’) happened to approach me in the gym at the YMCA one day. He told me about the workouts and how fun it is to workout outside and that sometimes we even get to carry other sweaty men around in exercises called partner carries. I thought he was joking as usual, but he did emphasize that it really is a great group of guys and I should at least give it a try for a couple weeks at the original ‘Area 51’ workout.
That was back when we had only two workouts a week in the Charlotte South. At that time I was doing fine – beautiful wife, three boys, regular church-goer, good job, decent house… stereotypical of a nice suburban life in south Charlotte. At first, I wasn’t sure what to think of the workouts – sure they were exhausting at first and helped get me into shape. But as I started coming back, I started to realize I had been stuck in a rut. While I was comfortable in my life, I was coasting no clear goals, few real friends in the area, plateaued in my workouts at the YMCA, going through the motions at church, and in a good job, but had limited upward prospects.
Fast forward to today where F3 Charlotte South (Area 51) now has now 29 workouts a week and are expanding to 30 in a couple weeks. In this time, I’ve co-founded a workout, become a site Q, run two Blue Ridge Relays, a couple half marathons, some mud runs, several 5ks and 10ksand am now training for my first marathon. Over this time, I’ve become a real runner, become in the best physical shape I’ve ever been in my life, been laid off, found a new job, been promoted, had a fourth boy, become re-engaged at church and in my community and have clear goals for the future. At 42, I’m more energized today than I’ve ever been in my career. Has F3 had some influence on all of this? Absolutely. More importantly, what has happened recently is my realization of just how strong and important this brotherhood really is to my life– something I’ve apparently taken for granted and is beyond anything I really understood fully until a few weeks ago.
It started when my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer back in March. She did well through the early stages of chemo but experienced challenges throughout the summer. I knew many of my closest F3 brothers were praying for her and my family. The prayers helped and she improved, but unfortunately she took a turn for the worse in late summer. When she passed in late August I knew my brothers were sending their prayers… what I didn’t know is how deep and broad the support was throughout Area 51.
We only had a week from when she passed until the Blue Ridge Relay, so I was just relieved to make it back in time to join the event and get my mind off the grief for a couple days. In the parking lot where we loaded up the vans, my team surprised me by revealing the sweatband bracelets that were made in her honor and memory. Not just for me… not just for our team… but all of the F3 Area 51 Blue Ridge Relay teams were wearing those for the race. On top of that, over $300 was raised as a donation to Coastal Hospice where she was cared for before she passed away. I was awestruck – many of these guys I barely knew had made significant contributions and were wearing a sweatband with my mother’s initials. My father and family were so touched by the gesture they were practically speechless. No one had ever done something like that for my family. My father compared it to football players or military who wear a special patch on their uniforms to honor a fallen or injured comrade. We all felt so humbled by this gesture we couldn’t even put it into words. The realization became crystal clear to me at that moment that I’m surrounded by unique brotherhood of faith and fellowship that will be there rain or shine.
Now I’ve been part of large companies, church organizations, clubs, and one of the biggest fraternities on campus but I’ve never felt the brotherhood as strong as I’ve felt with my fellow men of F3. It is true you get out of an organization what you put in, but I honestly feel like I’ve received more than I’ve given at this point. It is truly an honor to be a part an incredible organization that is having a measureable impact on the men, families, and communities within and beyond Charlotte. The amazing gesture offered with my mother’s passing has cemented my faith in this organization for life.
I am humbled. I am honored. I am a believer… I am 3rd.