Marika and I first met in 1999 at Ballys’ Total Fitness, where we both worked as personal trainers. As the twentieth century was coming to a close, we had no inclination that the ensuing 18 years would bring such adventure, triumph, failure and heartbreak. If Marika had known then what she knows now, I’m not sure she would have signed up for the journey. Me? I would have jumped on board, but I would have asked for a quicker and easier route.
Bonds Forged in Tragedy
I asked Marika to marry me in May of 2002. I had literally made the decision to ask her, got an engagement ring, and popped the question in less than 24hrs. However, my decision was based on all we had been through in the preceding year.
In January of 2001, Marika’s father had gone into the hospital for what we believed to be a routine operation, that is, if you can consider anything to be routine when someone has had T-Cell Lymphoma for seven years. On February 1st, Marika received a phone call at Elite Fitness, the gym where I was working at the time, telling her that we needed to rush to the hospital, her father didn’t have long to live. He passed away that afternoon.
October brought another phone call bearing tragic news, this time the call would be for me. My mother and sister had been involved in a car accident, and both had perished. My three-year-old niece, Katlynn, and another little girl had been taken by Careflight to Cooks Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth, my niece wasn’t expected to live.
Katlynn would spend the next six weeks at Cooks Children’s Hospital, being released with no plan from the doctors as to what the future might hold and no explanation for her being alive other than that it was a miracle.
By May of 2002, Marika and I had experienced more adversity and tragedy during our two years of dating than many couples experience in decades of marriage. There was so much of my life’s story that was already inseparable from her; I couldn’t imagine living out the rest of my story without her.
Leap Before You Look
Mark Twain once wrote, “all you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, then success is sure.” Looking back, I can see that I had plenty of ignorance and confidence. I must have been blessed with an extra dose of ignorance and confidence.
Marika and I were married in September of 2002. In December, we opened a small personal training studio while we began construction on the main gym, which would open in September of 2003. By our second anniversary; we had become small business owners, given birth to our son Preston and assumed full custody of my niece Katlynn. We were just getting warmed up.
In addition to ignorance and confidence, I also possessed a healthy dose of passion. The tragic events of 2001 had ignited a passion to help people get healthy and to “live a better story”.
My mother had suffered a heart attack the day of her car accident. She had collapsed while driving, causing the car to veer into oncoming traffic, resulting in the death of my sister and a traumatic brain injury to Katlynn. My mom was overweight and had a family history of heart disease, with both her father and sister dying from sudden cardiac arrest. Her lack of health had impacted the health of her daughter and granddaughter. I began to realize that fitness had significance beyond how someone looked in a swimsuit, it was literally a matter of life and death.
In 2005, we opened additional Fieldhouse locations and welcomed the addition of our third child, Madison.
If 2001 had been a pivotal year in shaping our passion, then 2008 would be the year that helped shape our approach to that passion. The tiny town of Clark, Texas, had recently changed their name to DISH. In return for naming the town after the satellite company, the residents each received 10 years of free basic service. I couldn’t help but wonder, “Would they all become couch potatoes? Or could they become the Fittest City in Texas.”
That spring, DISH was named Fittest City in Texas. We were contacted by officials from the Governor’s office and invited to Austin to meet with the Governor’s Advisory Council on Physical Fitness. It was there that I met Paul Carrozza, who at that time was serving on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness as well at the Governor’s Council. Paul believed people wouldn’t generally train for their health, but they would train for an event. They would train for vacation, marriage, graduation, divorce, or for a fun event like a 5K or marathon. I drank the Kool-Aid.
In 2008, we produced three local 5k runs, including the inaugural NISD Reindeer Romp, which raises money for local PE departments, we also welcomed the birth of Jordan, our fourth (and final?) child.
In 2009, we held our first Thanksgiving Day 5k in the parking lot of Cross Timbers Church in Argyle. It was a 5k with CrossFit inspired stops every ¼ of a mile, where you would perform various exercise, such as; kettle bell swings, lunges, pushups, sit-up’s, squats and burpees. The Grub Run is now held at Texas Motor Speedway, drawing 2000- 3000 people and gathering more than 12,000 pounds of food for the Tarrant Area Food Bank.
Things Get Dirty
On September 17th and 18th of 2010, nearly 10,000 people ran the inaugural Jailbreak, raising enough money to drill eight fresh-water wells in India, helping thousands Break Free from the cycle of poverty and disease caused due to a lack of clean drinking water. Before the first Jailbreak, we had never had more than 250 runners at one of our events, now we were running 300 people every 30 minutes, for two days! To say we were “in over our heads” would be a gross understatement. Thank God for the members and staff at the Fieldhouse who worked tirelessly all weekend to make the event a success!
The Jailbreak went on to host events in Austin, Houston, El Paso, San Antonio, South Padre Island and Corpus Christi. It has led to other events as well; Dirty Rascals Adventure Run (an obstacle course for kids), Color Me Loco (a 5k color run), Dude Just Tri (a sprint triathlon targeting first timers) and the South Padre Marathon.
Live a Better Story
The Fieldhouse is more than a gym. It’s a place where people dream big, and then work hard to achieve their dreams.
Marika and I realize that a gym shouldn’t be confined to the walls of a building. Fitness is meant to accentuate life, not be life.
The Fieldhouse story is a real life “The Little Engine That Could”. Not every attempt has been successful, but we keep trying. So, what does the next chapter have in store? Volleyball!
"You can go as far as you can see, but when you get there, you can always see farther"
- Zig Ziglar