One man's struggle with the 2XL running singlet
I speak to Martinus Evans about using his experience of being black and overweight in America to run marathons and enable others to do the same in a way multi-billion-dollar corporations could not
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If Running Sucks is the only thing you read about running (I hope not!), you’ll be forgiven for not knowing exactly who Martinus Evans is.
Over the course of 2023, with a nationwide book tour and features in Runner’s World, NPR, Shondaland, Apple News, and who knows how many podcasts and blogs, Evans and his Slow AF Run Club brand has been rightfully ubiquitous in the media.
By now I can recite the origin story of why Martinus started running from memory. He went to the doctor with a hip problem. The doctor told him to lose weight or die. Evans immediately retorted that he would run a marathon. And so it was.
While the Slow AF Run Club boasts 27,600 followers on Instagram at the time of writing, Martinus is the clear figurehead. Fast closing in on 100,000 followers, he has built and leveraged that social power over the past decade to inspire thousands of people to start their own running journeys.
I call it an origin story because Martinus Evans is a bona fide superhero in the running world, make no mistake.
We know why you started running. Why do you run now?
“Now, my journey is not necessarily for me. I know what it means to run marathons, I know what it means to train, and I got through that process. Now, I run for people who think they can't do it - for me to be the example that people point to.”
“When somebody says they can't do this or they’re too slow, they’re too fat or too whatever to run, people can point to me and say, ‘Martinus can do it. Why not you?’”
This is the third instalment in my series of Slow Running stories (links below), but when I talk to Martinus about running slowly, the coach in him recoils slightly at the word ‘slow,’ but Low Intensity Running That Results In Running A Little Slower Than Usual just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Martinus’s Slow AF Run Club can attest to that.
What do you love most about running?
“When it comes to long distance road running, it's the only sport where you can be in the same field and literally run behind the elite athletes.”
“Des Linden or whoever is in corral one? You can be in corral 15 and be right behind them, travel along the same course and face some of the same things they experience. I think that's amazing.”
It’s true. I remember running a 10k in London and seeing Mo Farah running at me, heading towards the finish line on the out-and-back course before I’d reached the halfway mark. We ran the same race!
What’s the New York running scene like?
“‘Brand Wars’ is the best way to explain it. New York is a key city for all the major running brands. You've got Adidas Runners and you’ve got all the running crews that Nike sponsor, and these other crews that other brands sponsor. It’s brand wars!”
“In the micro sense, though, it's just community. I think New York has one of the greatest running scenes. It's fun and intense at the same time, whereas I think about Boston and it’s just intense.”
Martinus has run the coveted Boston Marathon. After declaring in that doctor’s visit that he would run a marathon, the joke is that he didn’t realize that ‘marathon’ wasn’t just a name people give 5k races. Since his friends helped him understand what running 26.2 miles looks like, he’s done it eight times on his own. At least once with Des Linden.
What do you consider a successful run?
“Any run that I do is a success because I got out there. How I think about running in general is that it's a thing that everybody can do, but everybody doesn’t do it. Any run that I do is a success because I know that everybody's not doing it.”
Despite his goal being to help more people start running, Martinus talks to me about certain comments from people who are not in his circle. As a person of size - the 300lbs in his Instagram handle isn’t for dramatic effect - it’s not great. As a black man as well, it gets sadder.
“There’s always someone that feels like they have the right to tease you. Teasing a fat person is still the last generally accepted thing that people can do.”
He talks about running in the Slow AF Run Club shirt because the mascot and smiling turtle are cute enough to lower people’s guards to the point they don’t find him threatening enough to enact self-defense measures. A comment on society.
“Do I talk about it at length everyday? No. Why would I want to continue to traumatize myself by going over everything that happens to me by being a black man?”
What’s interesting to me is that despite (or maybe because of) being given a death sentence by his physician and suffering a constant double dose of microagressions, Martinus has built his running profile to a place where he can sustain himself financially from the business of it.
He’s done that by honestly and publicly documenting his weight loss story on Instagram over the past decade as well as with his podcast. Now, he’s used his coaching expertise to write a book that sits alongside other luminaries such as Mirna Valerio and David Goggins on the short shelf of running books written by black people.
He talks to me of the boxes and boxes of merchandise in his office that contain t-shirts, tanks, and leggings that run up to 7XL in size. With a cursory look, I can not see a running tee from a major running brand sized above a 2XL.
Online, where the choice should be plentiful and inclusive, you have to search for a separate “plus size” (women) or “big and tall” (men) section. There are noticeably fewer color options there.
Not only is Martinus Evans changing the status quo of the way so many people think about what shape a runner can be, he’s giving larger runners the apparel to run in that they didn’t necessarily have before.
He’s making sure that a sector of society - otherwise marginalized by brands like Adidas and Nike that usually aren’t scared to loudly leverage diversity in the name of profits - has a firmer place in the running community.
If there is a brand war being waged, he’s both winning his particular battle and letting the general public - people like me who might not need to think beyond the sizes offered by the big brands - know that the battle exists for so many.
I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Today’s ways to make Running Suck less:
Remember you’re not “too” anything to run
Appreciate running races with titans of your sport
Commit to completing your goals, even if you don’t know exactly how far you’re running
If you can’t find running gear that fits you, visit the Slow AF Run Club store
Other Slow Running stories on Running Sucks:
Running Sucks Haiku of the Week
I made a logo.
It could be better. Maybe
One day it will be.
I know what looks good, but I’m… definitely a writer and only a writer. Upgrade to a paid subscription and I promise to immediately hire a real designer to design me a suitably cool logo. They always get paid first!
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