With no mountain too high, no route too long and no challenge too tough, what gets Marcus Leach out of bed in the morning?
Brand ambassador, self-made fitness guru and motivational speaker, Marcus has an incredible story to tell, and one which he relays with an infectious energy guaranteed to capture anyone’s imagination. Although his journey in the public eye started back in 2015, Marcus’ personal background is as fascinating as his more recent success. When aged twenty-two he unwittingly applied for a rugby journalist position based in Cape Town, South Africa, and swiftly found himself on a plane to start a new life some 8000 miles from his native U.K, what would have turned many green at the gills turned out to be one of his formational life events.
Marcus candidly admits that “finding myself so far from my normal life really taught me to stand on my own two feet.” “Looking back now it was one of the best things I ever did, and even today there are times that I miss South Africa,” he explains honestly. Upon finishing his job three years later, with little more than a tent and a rucksack for company, hitchhiking for fourteen months across the African continent via Cairo, Europe and finally to the U.K. seemed like a logical route home.
It is this nonchalant, ‘why not’ attitude that still pervades and ultimately fuels Marcus’ approach to life. When three years ago he decided to embark on eleven months of ‘fat to fit’ training, it was a challenge to be tackled incrementally, step by step, until the task was complete. “I’d let myself become a little less healthy in my lifestyle than I would have liked, and decided that it was time to make a change,” he recalls. A strict training regime followed, and in little under a year Marcus appeared on the cover of a magazine, as well as featuring in several others for his transformation story and the life it has since led to.
Yet despite the glamour and instant gratification of becoming a cover model, Marcus soon decided “there was more to life than looking good with your top off.” It is this decision that has truly cemented his course since then, with public speaking, extreme challenges and fundraising becoming a part of his daily life. When his mother suggested he give a speech about his experiences in front of thousands of people, having “only ever only stood up to speak at my own wedding, I thought ‘why not,’” he laughs. The “buzz” that came with public speaking, and that feeling of connecting with those eager to learn from his story, has lead him to speak regularly as a Global F.I.T ambassador with Forever Living Products to audiences of up to 6000 people.
Today Marcus is perhaps best known for undertaking tough physical and mental challenges. When he first completed his body transformation, he decided to cycle the iconic Alpe d’Huez as his “first small challenge” to “see how hard it can really be.” Even though his sporting career started out in rugby, Marcus admits that “I’ve always been fascinated with cycling. Although rugby is obviously a team game, with cycling it is often simply you against the mountain, and you’re either good enough or you’re not.” Driving through the south of France on a family holiday, he took the final decision to cycle Alpe d’Huez at the last minute, and found himself “the only man on the mountain in full thermal cycling gear in the middle of December.” A gruelling hour and a half later, he reached the summit, though the “relentless” pace of the climb left him convinced it was “the hardest thing I’d ever done physically, even after my body transformation.” His delayed sense of achievement was just the first of many in a love affair with extreme challenges.
In many ways this love affair borders on an obsession, but one which is driven by an underlying, unshakeable belief that human beings, regardless of age, gender or their current position in life, are capable of achieving great things. It is this which Marcus calls ‘the Champion’s Mindset’, the notion that if you work hard and break down the task at hand into manageable, attainable goals, “there is no limit to what you can achieve with your life.” “A lot of people never reach their full potential because of their fear of failure or what other people think”, says Marcus, and it is this self-limiting attitude that he combats daily in himself and others. Knowing when to seek out support and knowledge from others is also a vital lesson, as having pushed his body to the max throughout his transformation, Marcus is now working with professional cycling coach Matt Green to take his training to the next level.
True to his beliefs and committed to practicing what he preaches, Marcus’ next challenge is one in which even professional athletes have rarely succeeded. Throughout 2017, Marcus and four teammates will be taking on the Three Grand Tours: the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia and La Vuelta a España, one day ahead of the pro cyclists. In the history of these iconic races, only 39 cyclists have ever completed all three Tours in a single year. With a total distance of 11,000 km, 1/3 of which is comprised of steep mountain climbs, the rides will represent Marcus’ biggest feat to date.
Although the challenge to “push the limits of what is physically and mentally possible” is a huge motivation for Marcus, the challenge also has a philanthropic purpose. As part of their ride, Marcus and the team will be raising money for the charity Cure Leukaemia, with their target set at £1 million. Chosen because of teammate Geoff Thomas’ own personal battle with leukaemia back in 2002, the money raised could pay for the expansion of the globally renowned Centre for Clinical Haematology at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. Marcus sees their contribution to expanding the research centre as “offering a lifeline to those who are less fortunate”, and a chance to “play one small, tiny part in changing the course of history.” With research so close to finding a cure for leukaemia, the opportunity to “give back” was an honourable incentive.
Alongside his philanthropic work and Marcus is also a keen chef, speaking about food with the same excitement and fervour as he does all his interests. Always looking for new ways to transform his all-important nutrition into flavoursome, hearty, family-friendly meals, Marcus argues that “for the Champion’s Mindset to really become a lifestyle choice, it has to be sustainable.” Rebelling against the “boring chicken and broccoli in Tupperware” trend that so often comes with fitness training, and fully embracing his self-confessed weakness for refrigerated Lindt chocolate balls – “I ate ten on Sunday night, they’re my Kryptonite,” Marcus sees no excuse for starving yourself or victimising certain foods in pursuit of your goals.
With recipes to suit every budget and time commitment, from the decadent, slow cooked Osso Buco to his simple and crowd-pleasing Broccoli and Stilton soup, his weekly recipes are the perfect accompaniment to any training session. With such an exciting year ahead, Huez* is pleased to announce that Marcus will be joining us for a monthly guest blog to keep us up to date on his training progress, and plenty of recipe ideas to help you #fuelyourride.
You can support the 3 Tours Challenge fundraising efforts by donating at: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/3tours
Words by Rebecca SteadMore stories