Chowan County’s F3 organization members.

EDENTON - Since late summer 2018, Edenton residents may have noticed a group of men running through various neighborhoods.

The group consists of men from various backgrounds and careers such as judges, painters, surfers, preachers, retirees and financial advisors.

This eclectic gathering of men is not as unusual as most may think. All over the United States and around the world, men are gathering “in the gloom.” This is the unforgiving hour just before sunrise and just after the sound of an alarm clock.

This men gather to spend time getting one percent better than they were the day before.

This is done through physical exercise as a group, and through sharpening their skills as leaders in the community through networking, sharing ideas, motivating and encouraging other men and through accountability from the group.

Chowan County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy M. John R. McArthur is a part of this group known as F3, which stands for Fitness, Fellowship and Faith.

“The three F’s mean more to me today than they ever have. I have always been mindful of my physical fitness, but I have not always been dedicated to the need of remaining physically fit,” said McArthur.

According to McArthur, the definition of being physically fit changes for men over time.

“As a father of two relatively young children, my definition revolves around being able to grow old with my wife and being healthy enough to actively travel with her, and also actively participate in the successes of our children as they grow up,” he added.

McArthur joined F3 by invitation from a man he refers to as “Judge Judy.”

“I had been in a slump with my individual efforts of getting in shape. I couldn’t ever seem to stay motivated for more than a month to run the same route by my house that I always ran,” he continued.

McArthur said when “Judy” invited him, “Judy” was energetic and enthusiastic about the names of the exercises, that the guys were coming regularly and about the fact that it was a hard exercise routine but that the motto, “No Man Left Behind” was a core value that was followed without hesitation.

“I told Judy that I would try and make it one day, and Judy replied with I will see you tomorrow morning at 5:30 in front of the library. He then walked away without giving me a chance to protest,” he continued.

When McArthur arrived the next morning, he was surprised to see 12 other men standing around in the dark at the library waiting for the 5:30 a.m. bell to sound.

When it did, the men were off and before McArthur could realize it the 45 minutes had passed.

“At this point I could tell you that it was all fun and games, but I loved every second of it. For days afterwards, I was so sore, but it was proof it was progress. It still took a conscious effort to keep up with the other guys but they never left me behind. They never said a discouraging word and they never let me give up on myself,” said McArthur.

The other men in the group talk about how difficult it was for them when they started, they did talk about the amount of weight they had los and how good they felt now that they had increased their activity level.

“F3 is positive peer pressure. I would never exercise at 5:30 in the morning on my own, and do the exercises we do. However, when I have the others with me doing the same thing, it’s motivating and fun. I look forward to it and hate when I am not able to show up,” said F3 participant Brian Long.

“Some say I cannot do stuff. Wrong. You can modify the exercises to suit you. I am a big guy that hates running. I am not a good runner. I do what I can do and modify. I appreciate the camaraderie, joking and laughing with each other,” Long added.

Another F3 participant, Thomas Wood, besides enjoying the comradery of struggling alongside friends, F3 ensures accountability.

“Without the group, I am not inclined to suffer through an exercise like I would not have begun alone,” he said.

The core values of F3 are the following: free of charge, open to all men, held outdoors, peer led and ends with a circle of trust.

The motto is, “leave no man behind but leave no man where you found him.”

According to McArthur, the names of the exercises are strange, and the names for one another funny.

“All of these are just words though. They mean nothing unless there is substance behind them,” McArthur continued.

“The F3 group has made a very positive impact on my life. I am thankful for the comradery and new friendships that I have made. The bond of fellow men who are like minded and push each other to be better in every area of their life is exactly what I needed to build strength, leadership qualities and confidence,” said participant Brian Armstrong. “Persistence and consistency is key for success in everything we do and F3 offers that by being available to those who pursue it. I feel we are equal when we are together despite our career, background or education.”

F3 member Keith Nixon said he had been telling himself for a long time that he needed to start exercising again, but as the years passed he continued to put it off.

“I was invited to give F3 a try. After much encouragement from men I know and respected, I finally showed up. That was five months ago, and I have stuck with it,” Nixon continued.

At 53 years old, I though my workout days were over. I was wrong. Now I am healthier and stronger than I have been in a long time. I am also thankful for friendships I have made along the way. We struggle and sweat together. We encourage one another. We talk about life and laugh a lot along the way,” he added.

McArthur invites any men interested in trying F3 to join them one morning to see how it is more than an exercise group, and that their words have substance.

The F3 schedule is as follows:

On Mondays at 5:30 a.m., the group meets in front of the Shepard-Pruden Memorial Library for a 45 minute session of running with stops along the way or ruck with weighted pack.

On Tuesdays at 5:30 a.m., the group meets in the Edenton Baptist Church parking lot for 45 minutes of running with stops along the way or at Westover General Store for Bible study, breakfast, leadership discussions and more.

On Wednesdays at 5:30 a.m., the group meets in front of John A. Holmes High School for a 45 minute run with stops along the way or at Rocky Hock Baptist Church for kettle ball exercises and little running.

On Thursdays at 5:30 a.m., F3 meets in the Edenton Baptist Church parking lot for a 45 minute run with stops along the way.

On Fridays at 5:30 a.m. the group meets at the Barker House for a 45 minute run with stops along the way or a ruck with weighted pack.

On Saturdays at 7 a.m., the group meets again at the Shepard-Pruden Memorial Library for a 45-minute run with stops along the way.

For more information about F3, contact John McArthur at 252-548-2912 or via email at john.mcarthur10@gmail.com.

Thadd White is Group Editor of the Bertie Ledger-Advance, Chowan Herald, Perquimans Weekly, The Enterprise & Eastern North Carolina Living. He can be reached via email at twhite@ncweeklies.com.