50-year-old logistics manager John Martin from Glasgow started attending British Military Fitness (BMF) sessions in early 2014. Although he’d done a few runs for cancer charities earlier in his life, he had stopped exercising and his weight had gone up to over fourteen stone.
A work colleague, Sandra, sister of Norma – sang the praises of Rouken Glen park sessions. John’s colleague told him he’d love it and eventually, on 22nd January 2014, he gave it a try.
“I thought it would be a bootcamp style thing, without many people there. I was assured it would be busy and I would enjoy it. The instructor, Aaron, asked me how fit I was and I told him I hadn’t done very much. So I started off in the blue (beginner) group. After the class, Aaron said I had clearly found it too easy, and offered me another free trial – this time with the reds (intermediate level). He said he wanted to ensure I actually got something out of it… and that was definitely the case. Since that day I haven’t looked back – I absolutely love it.”
“Crawling around in the mud, doing the things you used to do in PE at school, stuff I wouldn’t even have been allowed to do as a kid…! It’s great.”
John signed up for six months, and after around five months was feeling fitter, but hadn’t lost any weight. A friend in class told him to stick it out and that he would see the changes at the six-month mark – and sure enough, he did.
“After six months the weight just started to fall off, and I was getting fitter and faster all the time. I stuck with the reds for 8 or 9 months, and didn’t really want to move up. It might sound silly, but I really liked the group of people I was training with, and I also felt like the green advanced group were all far fitter and faster than me.”
“My instructor, Charlie, got us to do an exercise one Saturday morning with the greens. I thought we were all supposed to do the same thing – run around the ‘lone tree’ and come back – but actually the reds and I were supposed to be on a shorter route. Anyway, I led the pack, realised my mistake as I rounded the tree… and went on to finish at the front of the pack. Charlie just said: ‘Monday night: Green bib!’ So I had no choice after that but to move up to the greens!”
Now a keen marathon and ultramarathon runner, John is down to 10 stone 8, and credits his success to “the bossman” Charlie and the Glasgow BMF family.
“Charlie is a great mentor and a great guy. After I did the Royal British Legion Major Series in Stirling – a horrendous day with rain and howling winds – and finished 14th, I realised with surprise that I was capable of competing amongst the best BMF guys. I had wanted to be up there with them, and now I was!”
“Charlie saw on Facebook that I was running the six miles to and from work every day – carrying up to 19kg at times – and asked what I was training for. I told him I wasn’t really training for anything in particular, as I hadn’t been selected for the London Marathon but would love to do it. He offered me his free pass, as it so happened to be on the same day as the 53-mile Hoka Fling that he had trained for. So I got accepted to do the marathon in his place, he got a nice bottle of whisky from me as a thank you, and I managed a time of 3.42. I was delighted!”
After the marathon, John promised himself he’d never do another one again… but within 2 weeks had signed up for the Glencoe Marathon (which he did with a pack on his back). Then Charlie asked him about doing the Hoka Fling.
“Mr Motivator Charlie encouraged me to sign up for the Fling, and I did it in 12 hours. Then I registered for the D33 in Aberdeen – another ultra – followed by Run the Blades, a 55k ultra. I also did the 42-mile Devil o’ the Highlands, along the West Highland Way, in around 8 hours.”
“I wouldn’t be doing any of this if it wasn’t for Charlie and BMF. Charlie is an absolute master of what he does but all the other instructors I’ve had have also been great guys and great motivators. The variety really keeps you engaged.”
Despite doing a lot of races and running, John is still attending 3 or 4 BMF sessions a week, across different Glasgow parks. He goes on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings, as well as hitting the Saturday morning running club at Kelvingrove followed by a 10am BMF class at Rouken Glen. “The sessions are fantastic. They provide a good motivation for my running, and help with endurance, but they are also just really fun. It’s a lovely group of people, and I deliberately go to different classes as I love to meet all these new people from different walks of life. There are lawyers, firemen, nurses, bin men, the whole spectrum – it’s amazing. We’re like a big BMF family, and we look out for one another. Greens are very competitive, sure, but overall we are there for one another; there is no nastiness, and everyone is just there to get fit.”
John, who stopped drinking 8 years ago and stopped smoking 16 years ago, says he fits the training around his family, as he likes to be able to spend time with his young sons. “If my 5-year-old wants to go swimming in the evening, I can take him, even if I have run the six miles home from work. Family comes first. I just do what dads do, and BMF gives me the energy to do it!”
Thanks to these arduous commutes (almost every day), the BMF sessions, races and busy family life, John has not only lost lots of weight but says he feels much stronger and fitter. He also says BMF Nutrition has been great at helping with his diet, providing very useful information around health and nutrition.
“You wouldn’t believe it to see me two and half years ago, or as an overweight kid! I’m fitter now than I was at 16/17 – I look totally different now. A lot of it is down to hard work and determination from me, but a LOT of motivation came from BMF.”
So what’s next for John? Well, despite not getting into the 96-mile run from Milngavie to Fort William (a ballot that saw 465 entrants for 200 places and a race that he intends to enter again next year), he will be running the Fling again in April, doing the Snowdonia Trail Marathon in May, and is looking at going down to a 65-mile trail route in the Lakes in July to add yet another ultra to his list.
“I’m 50 now – make sure you put that in! – but I wish I had been at BMF 20 years ago because I love every minute of it. Anyone who is unsure of joining as I was, please don’t feel like that. Join up! You will enjoy training outdoors with a great group of people and with instructors that motivate you no end.”
Visit britishmilitaryfitness.com to sign up to a free trial.