With his eyes closed, he pretended that the sounds he was hearing were that of an airplane. The sounds of airplanes always gave him a sense of peace, probably because he had served in one of the most powerful Air Forces in the world. He knew those sounds were there to serve and protect him, whether he was in Panama during the Noriega event or at USSTRATCOM (the folks in charge of the nukes). Those sounds would make him certain of the future, but today he couldn’t shake it; he knew it wasn’t an airplane vibrating his ear drum. He squeezed his eyes a bit tighter, hoping it would help get him to a happy place. He thought of memories of his three perfect children or his best friend, his beautiful wife. He thought of summer days: him, his dog, and his truck cruising around town, windows down, Jack Johnson on the radio, and the smell of fresh cut grass in the air. No matter what memory he tried to recall, he couldn’t shake it.
He opened his eyes and was brought back to reality. He saw and smelled white, sterile, stale plastic. He was lodged deep inside of what looked like a donut, which at the time was one of his favorite foods. He was laying lifeless, on his back inside of a CAT scan for the third time in 90 days. Helpless, a position and word that didn’t exist to him. He wasn’t comfortable inside this tomb-like technology, but his comfortable lifestyle is what landed him in it. You may even know that lifestyle.
You’re a nice, outgoing person. A good neighbor. You’re a good employee. You set resolutions each year that seem to disappear a bit faster than you’d like, but at least you try. You have a nice house and car, but you took down the white picket fence because your life is not perfect; it’s better defined as comfortable.
The guy laying inside that CAT scan, 40 lbs overweight, staring at the white plastic was the epitome of comfortable just 3 months ago; before this strange illness popped up. His favorite question at night to himself each was, “which flavor of ice cream will I have tonight?” Now, the question he was asking each night before he closed his eyes was, “am I dying?”
This stuff isn’t supposed to happen to nice people like him. He was in the CAT scan, because the doctors were looking for cancer. Certainly, he didn’t want them to find any, but if they did, he wants it to be early on. If the scans came back clear, he promised to make some changes, but promises are always broken. He didn’t need to make any promises; he needed to make it a necessity. A necessity for his wife, his kids, his dogs, and his friends. His friends that he had at that time, and the friends he had yet to meet.
The scans came back clear. Phew, but why in the world did this happen? A question that science may never prove, but maybe it happened just so that he would make the world a better place!
His three months of uncertainty weren’t a dream like George Bailey’s in It’s a Wonderful Life. No ghosts visited him like Scrooge from A Christmas Carol. This guy lived 90 days with the the grim reaper at his front door. His life had an eviction notice with his name on it.
With a clean test result, he had a new lease on life; he was determined to never look back and start exercising and eating better!
Sure, we have all heard that story from a friend with the best of intentions to make a dramatic change, but we roll our eyes and wonder how long their passion to live a better, healthier life will last.
Just like this guy, you watch your friend start working out six days week. For him, it was three days of cardio and three days of strenth training.
But this friend of ours, in six months, lost that 40 pounds. While on a trail run with a friend, his life and our life would be forever changed because we get to live better lives because of the man we call Mr. XTERRA, race director, multiple time XTERRA overall champion, ambassador, friend, brother, son, father, husband and most importantly, Marcus Barton.
THE REST OF THE STORY-
While on that trail run, 40 pounds lighter, his friend asked him if he had ever done a triathlon. Of course, he hadn’t, but he thought it would keep him motivated to stay in shape. That triathlon was called XTERRA, which is a style of triathlon that consists of an open water swim, and off-road bike, and an off-road run. At the time, he didn’t even own a mountain bike, but he believed it wasn’t about resources; it was about being resourceful. So, he picked one up for $50 at a garage sale. The rest is history as a decade has pasted since his first XTERRA race!
Marcus, why have you stuck with XTERRA for the last 10 years?
“Because road triathlons, in my opinion, are so boring. There’s so much variety in the different XTERRA venues and some beautiful countryside. My favorite venue I’d have to say is Oak Mountain (Alabama) for three reasons. First, it’s a BLAST of a race course. Second, I am from there, so I get to visit my family. My dad and brother come out to watch and scoot all over the bike course to catch us at numerous places. Lastly, I get to see all the XTERRA staff!”
Marcus isn’t a pro-triathlete, but he expects to perform at his best, and his best is on top of podiums. Just take a look at his results and you just have to laugh. It’s littered with 1st place overall finishes in 2017 at Oak Mountain trail run, XTERRA Fort Yargo Triathlon, XTERRA Panther Creek and if he didn’t finish 1st, he is still on the podium with a 3rd place overall finish at the USAT Off-Road Triathlon Nationals and 21st and top American in his division at the ITU Cross Triathlon WORLD Championships. Certainly, a different position than how we first saw him at the beginning of this article.
Marcus, why does it matter to you to win and perform at your highest level?
“It pushes me to train hard, be a little more regimented with eating and generally stay healthy. For me, it’s a motivator. Even if I don’t win, I want to perform the best that I can. The minute I stop trying to do that, I’ll probably let other things slide and fall out of shape.”
What is your favorite vicory over the years?
“Winning XTERRA Whitewater, which is a race I created and race directed the first two years”
Whitewater is a special place in America and is an Olympic training facility and is also a vacation destination in itself. Marcus has passed the torch since setting up the race. Now he runs the transition clinic the night before the race, which is where you will find him sharing stories, showing transition tips and tricks, and giving out free samples from his sponsors.
While he has sponsors, he has a full time gig like the rest of us. So, when he’s not racing, he’s a top performer at work, which is what indirectly brought him to Charlotte. After the United States Air Force, he made a move into Information Technology. He became a Microsoft Certified Trainer and consultant. Before his current position at Dell, he was recruited by Microsoft to take a job in Charlotte, where he still lives after 18 years. As you can imagine, Marcus doesn’t find himself on the couch much any more.
Marcus, How do you have time for everything? Can you give us a glimpse into a typical week?
“I generally do two-a-days during the week. I’m swimming three days a week in the mornings and doing some other workout in the AM on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The evenings, I’m usually running or biking. The weekends consist of the longer workouts with running and biking. Every now and then, there’s a brick thrown in. I carry a typical work day on the week days, but I do travel a bit. I cover North Carolina and South Carolina for work, so it’s not uncommon for me to spend several hours a day in the car driving. Some of my longer trips involve overnight stays, so I have to work my training schedule around it. My kids are all in their 20’s, so they’re sort of doing their own thing now and Alba (his wife) supports me by being flexible with my hectic schedule.”
Because of that 90 day scare, we all know Marcus Barton. He has made our lives better. He has helped people across the country find what they are looking for through XTERRA. He has hoisted trophies like a true champion. He has shared houses in Spain with the likes of Josiah Middaugh, Cody Waite, Rife Hilgartner and Dan Kimball, one of his fondest memories. He laughs thinking about giving an XTERRA 18 wheeler parking tickets, or taking the cutout of Kahuna Dave’s head, made by the XTERRA staff, at Oak Mountain one year when he couldn’t make it and he toured it all over the southeast (last seen here). He remembers deciding at a lunch, on a whim, to enter a race that was 7 hours away in West Virginia and winning it. He’s a friend to all.
Marcus, the season hasn’t started yet, but who do you think is going to win the XTERRA World Championships in 2018?
“I think Josiah Middaugh is going to kill it. I don’t know why, but I think we’re gonna see a volcano God erupt with him. I think on the women’s side, Duffy will be hard to beat. The waves will be back, as I predict that it will be another wet and sloppy race.”
So if you’re going through an uncertain time, think of Marcus and make some dramatic changes. Let’s all be grateful for the scare and that he defied the odds. Let his lesson, be our lesson and not wait for a scare. Skip the 90 days of uncertainty and just sign up for a race this XTERRA season! You will be glad you did and you can thank Marcus later for all the friends you are going to make this year!