Martinus Evans didn’t set out to be a game changer in the sport of running, yet through the development of the Slow AF Run Club, that’s exactly what he’s doing.
Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Evans, 37, had an unconventional way of finding his path to running. Back in 2012, feeling some pain in his hip, he made an appointment to see his doctor to get it checked out.
“That doctor said, ‘Mr. Evans, you are fat. You have two options: lose weight or die,” Evans recalls of his visit, explaining that the doctor told him he had to start walking to lose weight. “I responded, ‘Screw you and screw walking; I’m going to run a marathon.’”
According to Evans, the doctor warned him that running a marathon could be dangerous at his weight (approximately 360 pounds at the time), but as he explains, that was the last straw in his experience with “fatphobia,” something he had put up with for much of his life. When he was in high school, he was not able to play football, something he was deeply passionate about, as he was over the weight limit. He was tired of being told he couldn’t do something because of his weight.
“I started running and have been running since then,” says Evans.
Since that appointment in 2012, Evans has run eight marathons, including New York City and Marine Corps, and he has competed in hundreds of races.
However, his journey to his first marathon was not an easy one. It wasn’t just a matter of learning how to run, there were other challenges that Evans faced.
“When it came to understanding what eating for fuel was or how to hydrate, it was very difficult because I had nothing to go off of for someone my size,” he says, adding that it was even a challenge to find running clothes and running shoes as a larger individual.
Even after overcoming the numerous obstacles and challenging training regime, Evan’s first marathon was a bittersweet experience. On one hand, he felt proud and excited, his hard work paying off. On the other hand, however, it wasn’t the usual excited cheering from spectators that acted as the soundtrack to Evans’ race. As he ran, he experienced constant heckling from the driver of the sweeper vehicle. Many times in his last few miles, the driver would encourage him to quit and get into the van.
But Evans was determined, and despite the heckling, no one could take away his accomplishment as he crossed that finish line in just over seven hours.
“I had this sense of accomplishment; I still did it. I did it and I kept going, and I didn’t quit. So, I was very happy about it.”
For Evans, running isn’t about being the best or the fastest, and in his experience being an atypical runner, he realized that there were others out there like him. So, he founded the Slow AF Run Club, a space for all types of people to feel included. As he puts it, there was a hole in the running community—no one championing the back of the pack.
The group started off with around 40 people, but when the pandemic hit and the Slow AF Run Club began holding virtual races, the numbers skyrocketed, with 4,000 to 5,000 people running their races.
With a large uptick in people who wanted to run due to quarantine and isolation but didn’t know how, Slow AF Run Club became a safe haven for runners of all types to explore their passion on the pavement.
“Running has given me so much. It brings me into spaces I might never have gone otherwise and has made me do things I’ve never done before,” says Evans. “I really just appreciate and love running. It’s my thing. It makes me feel free.”
But Evans wasn’t done making an impact. In June of this year, he released his first book, Slow AF Run Club: The Ultimate Guide for Anyone Who Wants to Run.
“I wrote the book because there was nothing like it—no resource out there for runners like me,” he says.
As a run coach himself, Evans noticed when working one-on-one with new clients, they all had the same questions when starting out.
“The funny thing was, they were all questions that I asked when I first started running too,” he says. “‘Should you run for speed or distance? Do you eat before a run? If you do, what do you eat?’ I felt there was just a hole in running literature that needed to be filled. Since my ethos is about being the change, I brought the change.”
And Evans intends to continue to “bring the change” to the running community and encourage anyone who wants to run for the sheer joy of it.
Photography by – Drew Reynolds
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