Detroit Native Builds ‘Slow AF Run Club’ Community to Bust Stereotypes
| 4 min read
Martinus Evans runs slow.
And he wants you to know that’s OK.
The Detroit native started running at 300 pounds 10 years ago, and has gone on to run eight marathons and founded a 25,000-member online running community called the “Slow AF Run Club.” The community is inclusive, and empowers people to run “in the body they have right now.”
“For me, running was the gateway to unlocking my full potential and unlocking my fearlessness when it comes to doing other things in life where people are like, ‘Oh wow, you did that? How did you do it?” I just did it,” said Evans, who now lives in New York. “It was hard, but I figured it out, because none of this stuff is harder than running a marathon by yourself.”
The first step
In his mid-20s, Evans saw a doctor for hip pain. The doctor told him he was overweight – and that he needed to start walking to drop pounds.
That immediately struck a nerve.
“This person just sees me for my size, and just told me to start walking to lose weight – and I’m literally on my feet 10 hours a day,” Evans said, explaining he worked a commission sales job at Men’s Warehouse at the time and often had little time to sit down.
In that moment, Evans told the doctor he was going to run a marathon. The doctor laughed.
“I stormed out of the doctor’s office and I bought running shoes that day,” Evans said. “While that was a shitty experience, it was one of the experiences that changed my life.”
Eighteen months after that doctor’s appointment, Evans ran the Detroit Free Press Marathon in 2013. It was only fitting that his first marathon in his hometown.
Getting to that first finish line didn’t happen all at once. It started with 5Ks, and then 10Ks. Every step Evans documented through his popular Instagram account, @300poundsandrunning. At first, Evans was motivated out of spite. Since that time, Evans has run eight marathons and finished more than 100 races in the past decade.
Making his own path
Evans’ route to distance running wasn’t something he could have ever predicted.
“Growing up in Detroit, the only thing I knew about running was track. I didn’t know about longer distances, or cross country. I didn’t learn about that until my 20s,” Evans said.
As a kid, physical activity was fun and social – whether it was riding his bike or playing neighborhood games of basketball or football. Though he tried organized sports his junior year at Edwin C. Denby High School on Detroit’s east side, he found it to be too focused on physical ability and winning games and competitions. He watched his mom and dad work physically demanding jobs in the automotive industry – his father worked 35 years for General Motors, and his mom worked at a supplier company for the Big Three.
As a young adult, his first goal was to be a physical therapist. He continued to pursue his interests – accumulating “degrees like a thermometer,” as Evans puts it. Now with a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees, Evans is a “serial entrepreneur” – and needs more than one finger to count off his current pursuits: fashion designer, author, running coach and community leader.
Finding his strength
Running has changed Evans’ life.
“Overall, I’m more of a grounded person,” Evans said. “It’s the thing that I’m constantly thinking of how to improve it. And how to make the story that I have, no longer the story for anybody else.”
Not only has he turned coaching and mentoring into one of his full-time entrepreneurial pursuits, it’s garnered him national media attention and landed him on the covers of magazines and newspapers. But for Evans, some of the biggest changes are in his health. Not only are his blood panels within normal ranges, he feels mentally stronger than ever.
“Me being a runner, and me being physically active, has helped with the mental health aspect,” Evans said. “Running a marathon is hard – and I’ve done it eight times. It gives me the liberty to know I can do hard things, as long as I put my mind to it.”
It’s that strength he found during running that gave him the courage to start a club – the Slow AF Run Club – to help encourage others like him to overcome their fears and accomplish their goals. The club is now 25,000 members strong. Evans also just published a book, “Slow AF Run Club: The Ultimate Guide for Anyone Who Wants to Run.”
While his early motivation to run was often fueled by that negative interaction with a doctor, Evans said he’s progressed in his journey:
“Now it’s my duty,” Evans said about why he runs. “I think my journey as much as it was for me, for all the countless people who have not heard about me, or who have heard about me, that they can do it as well. It’s about the community, and the beacon of hope that I provide for these people.”
Photo credits: Courtesy of Martinus Evans.