You see him everyday in his neatly hemmed pants and blue button down or, more recently, polo shirts, but there is so much more to Raintree Athletic Club General Manager/Owner and native New Zealander Martin Johns than meets the eye. We sat down with him to find out more about his motivation and a little bit of reflection to his experience during the summer of 1996 in Atlanta at the Olympic Games.
A: The people. I just love what I do and I have met so many interesting people in this industry, not just here at Raintree, but all over. The most recent one, Jim Collins (a gym owner and fitness enthusiast in Cincinnati) walks in my office one day and says “You know, I’m climbing Everest next summer,” and I was like when does that happen. I have met a lot of veterans, professors, sports men and women and that is cool.
And our team, just to be around a lot of people who have a common mission and a common purpose, it’s awesome.
Q: What was the best piece of advice you got when you decided this is what you were going to do?
A: I think that goes back to my coach and mentor from my days at Adams State, Coach (Joe) Vigil. He had many, many sayings and most of them were originals, but one that he used was, ‘if you want to light the fire in someone else, you must first glow.’ So I take that as you have to model behaviors, you’ve got to walk the walk. There is no point in being a leader if you are not going to do what you are asking others to do. That’s how I try to lead and to live my life in general.
Q: If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
A: This is what I wanted to do for as long as I can remember. Once I retired from competitive athletics, I wanted to be in this industry doing something.
I guess if I wasn’t doing this, I’d probably be coaching. That is one of the things I have in my goals to do, and as my kids get older that will probably be the impetus to get me to do it, because I’ll probably coach some of my kids. I’ve done a little soccer coaching, but coaching track I think is certainly something I would be doing if I wasn’t running a health club.
Q: Some members may not know that you ran in the 1996 Olympic games. Tell me a little bit about your Olympic experience.
A: The whole experience was such a journey. I was 17 when I left home from New Zealand and I left with the goal of representing New Zealand at the Olympics and that didn’t happen until 1996. So I spent quite a few years on this journey and there were certainly some ups and downs as anyone would expect. When I got the opportunity, it was sort of a weird sensation, to be honest. It was evident in my showing, even though I had some lingering injuries – but those aren’t excuses – I think getting there was what I was looking to do and I did, then it was kind of like “Yay!” If I went back knowing then what I know now, and if I was talking to younger kids that want to be in the Olympics, I would say, “Getting there is certainly part of it, but when you are there, you want to give your best effort and don’t be satisfied.”
My goal was to make it there. My goal wasn’t to win an Olympic medal, but maybe had that been my goal, maybe I would have performed better on race day. It was a great experience and I got to run against some of the best athletes in the world and I got to see some of the best athletes in the world in different sports, which was cool. The little gymnasts, who are little; the weightlifters, who are little; to the swimmers, who are gigantic. I never appreciated the size of a male sprinter in the water. Those guys are 6’8″, 6’9″ and just massive individuals. When I initially saw them I thought they must be basketball or volleyball players.
To sum up, the experience was amazing. Nobody puts on a show like the Americans, as far as the opening ceremonies, the closing ceremonies and the organization of the entire event.
Q: Do you have any regrets running wise?
A: I think my only regret (that I was in control of) was my performance that day. I wish that I had been able to do better (here is a link to that day … http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/summer/1996/ATH/mens-1500-metres-round-one.html).
But I am also a person that doesn’t live in the past, we all make mistakes in life but I don’t beat myself up over it. If I could change it, I certainly would, but I never lost an ounce of sleep over it. It was done and dusted and it was time to move on into a different part of my life.
Q: Do you ever play the race over in your head?
A: I can, I really can. It is interesting, my athletic career, all my best races and all my big races I have very little recollection of at all. I don’t know if that is a good thing or not. I’ve never watched it and as time has gone on, I am actually a little more curious to watch the race now … and it was almost 20 years. Maybe one of these day I can find it on YouTube or something like that, I’ll watch it.
Q: Do you get recognized when you go back home, other than by your parents?
A: My parents are awesome, they always recognize me!
No, not really and that is totally fine. I never did what I did for that type of recognition. New Zealanders are a very different breed and I don’t really even know if there is a celebrity in New Zealand. There are certainly some very well known athletes and it has changed a lot over the last 20 years with social media and just media in general. But a lot of people don’t even know that I ran in the Olympics, even people that I work with. To quote my sister, “Just because it happened to you doesn’t make it interesting.” And she’s right, it’ not; it was a goal that I had personally and one that I shared with my family. They were all very proud of it and that is all that really matters.
Q: Any dreams of going back to New Zealand and stay?
A: No, this is home. I am fortunate that I get to go back as often as I want and to take my family, because it is not cheap! But this is home and I love it here. Maybe 10 years from now, when the kids are away doing something, Nikole and I can spend a couple of months in New Zealand every year or something along those lines.
This business is still evolving and so I am going to be here making sure that happens.