F3 readies for run in the mountains

You can find the men of F3, which stands for Fitness, Fellowship and Faith, outdoors around neighborhoods at the crack of dawn, whether it is 100 degrees or below freezing.

This free, participant-led boot- camp workout is held throughout the area at various public venues, including parks, school campuses, churches and sometimes even parking lots. And now the men of F3 are training for the Blue Ridge Relay, a 208- mile relay held this month in the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina.

F3 may have originated in Charlotte back in 2006, but it has grown so quickly that there are now meetings held around the country.

Gray Riley has been attending F3 meetings more than two years and usually goes to the work out in Harrisburg. Because of the many choices for locations, Riley said sometimes he would travel to workout with a different group in the county or head to downtown Charlotte to workout with there as well.

“Two years ago I was doing nothing active and was a typical middle-age, out-of-shape male,” he said. “Now I’m in as good of shape, if not better, than I was playing high school sports 20 years ago.

“From a fellowship standpoint, F3 has opened doors to so many new friendships within our community. Men sometimes have a tough time admitting that they need that fellowship but it’s amazing and how we were designed. The camaraderie and accountability are what keep us all coming back.”

Now Riley and his group are training extra hard for this upcoming relay. “There are 160 teams taking part from all over the country. This year F3 will occupy almost a third of the field. Men basically cram into 15-passenger vans and run around the clock. Right now we are just running. ... A lot,” he said. “We’re running hills, running two times a day sometimes and taking part in a long run on Saturday mornings. This week our six-man team will go out and run 15 miles together in the dark to help prepare. We are all running approximately 40 miles a week right now, but that number will climb over the next six weeks as we prepare.”

Brian Baute is also a F3 workout member preparing for this relay. He joined in 2013 and usually attends the workouts in Harrisburg. They usually meet at Hickory Ridge High School, Stallings Road Park, Harrisburg Park and Harrisburg Elementary.

“The relationships men develop in the early morning workouts together the glue that keeps men coming back month after month even when we’re tired, or cold, or hot, or aching,” Baute said. “And the purpose we find and live out in serving our communities and our world are the dynamite that makes an impact.”

But these fitness enthusiasts do more than just workout, he said: “F3 men and groups have gone on service trips to Haiti, collected food and other items for local food banks, volunteered to clean and repair local nonprofit facilities, collected shoes for and formed relationships with our homeless neighbors and more.”

This is the second year F3 is participating in this relay. Riley told me that signing up for last year’s race came about on a whim before any of them started running: “We had heard about it, thought it sounded absolutely awful and decided to give it a shot.”

The Blue Ridge Relay will take place Sept. 11-12.

Linda Doherty is a freelance writer:

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