“At the time, there were very few people who would post a score better than me on dot com.”
Photos by Jeremy Podlog
Brett Marshall was posting on CrossFit.com before the CrossFit Games existed.
The initials “AFT”—which stand for Advanced Force Training, Marshall's personal training business before CrossFit Calgary—usually accompanied the top workout scores in the world back then, and Marshall was highly regarded as a threat to win Fittest on Earth at the 2007 Games. He finished second.
“At the time, there were very few people who would post a score better than me on dot com,” Marshall said.
Marshall competed at the Ranch in Aromas, Calif., in 2007, 2008 and 2009. He recently became better known after the repeat of the first-ever CrossFit Games workout—2007, which he won in the inaugural year of the Games—at the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games.
In 2011, 2012 and 2013, he led CrossFit Calgary at the Canada West Regional. He’s brought a team to the Canada West Regional three years in a row. Last year, the team missed the Games by a single point.
In short, Marshall has seen it all—every evolution of CrossFit Games competition from individual to team, and now masters. Ranked 83rd in the world in the 40-44 Masters Division, Marshall is preparing for the Masters Qualifier from April 17-21.
“This is the first year that I didn't make regionals (as an individual), but I've made it to the next stage of the masters competition,” said the new masters athlete. “There's only a few athletes out there who hang in there at this age like Matt Chan (and Bill) Grundler—I don't know how the fuck that guy does as well as he does at his age.”
Marshall said he thinks the Masters Qualifier will be a great equalizer for the top 200 in each age division. While he’s “a stickler” for movement standards, he doesn’t expect to see any major changes when competitors submit video for the additional workouts.
“To get to do four more workouts and have them all be videoed, I think that's brilliant,” he said. “I think there's going to be some shuffling going on, but I don't see people in the 50th spot jumping into the top 20.”
With that in mind, Marshall said he’s capable of making the top 20, even if it’s not this year.
“If you’re going to be in that top 20, you're either exceptionally gifted or you're working your tail off,” Marshall said. “I’d say that I train hard, but I have a busy life and I haven't made it a priority to make top 20 this year.
“This year will let me know what I have to do one way or another,” he added.
Marshall said he plans to give the Masters Qualifier events his full attention, and then compete in the Canada West Regional with his team, CFC CREW.
While he isn’t optimistic about qualifying for the Games either as a master or on the team in 2014, there’s always a chance things could turn his way. Marshall said he considers any event with an element of novelty to work to his advantage.
“The more diverse the better,” he said. “I think that's when my abilities and skills shone a bit stronger in the early days. I could easily adapt. Everything was new at that point. When everything’s new, anyone who can rise and adjust on the fly will be those who can excel. But once you know it's all on the table, everyone can practice and work out the kinks.”
“I love the new stuff,” he added.
Variety led Marshall to CrossFit in 2006, and he said the clear exposure of weakness is its best part, even in the Open.
“I feel the Open does a great job of giving people an opportunity to express their strengths and expose their weaknesses,” he said. “It's a broad test of your fitness. If you don't have double-unders, get them.”
He continued: “You know who else is in this? Josh Bridges and Rich Froning. The point is to have fun, explore opportunities and face challenges. You can expect to have your weaknesses exposed.”
Marshall is content with having his weaknesses exposed. If they’re big ones, he’ll spend the next year working on them. If he makes it past the Masters Qualifier he’ll keep going and then resume training.
The constant feedback cycle is what’s kept him engaged this long. Marshall’s athletic maturity means he’s happy to focus on the process, rather than a specific outcome, and it’s meant a decade of happy training.