Martinus Evans said he doesn’t know what he’d be doing if he wasn’t running — a lot — and spending his time leading Slow AF Run Club.
It’s a full-time job. The online community Evans started in 2012 has more than 20,000 members worldwide. It might have more now that the book he published this June, “Slow AF Run Club: The Ultimate Guide for Anyone Who Wants to Run,” is out in the world. The part memoir, part how-to guide gives new runners the tools to run at a pace that works for their bodies.
Evans, 37, is a big man who doesn’t have what some might think of as a typical runner’s body. His work is in part an attempt to change the perception of what a runner should look like.
A native Detroiter, he grew up near Harper Avenue and Conner Street on the eastside.
After college, he’d considered becoming a physical therapist or a researcher. But a poor experience with a doctor completely changed his career trajectory.
Evans said he spent about 10 hours on his feet each day working as a marketing consultant at Men’s Warehouse. He began to develop hip pain and went to see an orthopedic doctor, who diagnosed the cause of his pain instantly.
“He was pretty much like, ‘You’re fat. You need to lose weight, or you’re gonna die,’” Evans said.
Evans said the doctor’s unhelpful criticism of his weight didn’t stop there. He continued to scold Evans’ for a “lack of” walking habits and advised Evans to walk on a track after work, even though he was spending excessive time on his feet already.
Evans, who then weighed about 360 pounds, was frustrated. He challenged the doctor.
“I told him, ‘I’m going to run a marathon,’” Evans said. “He laughed at me and told me that was the dumbest thing he had heard in all his years of practicing medicine.”
Whether running a tough marathon or dealing with another issue, his mantra is, “Slow is steady and steady is forward.”
The Slow AF Run Club offers free and paid memberships with access to running coaches, weekly challenges and discounts on race fees. People with paid memberships get additional training plans and educational materials.
Evans said that many new runners fall into what he calls the “terrible twos”: They run too fast, run too much or add something to their routine too soon. This leads to injuries, which discourages them from trying again.
“Running has a hidden curriculum,” Evans said. “There’s things that people just know or have learned the hard way. The thing I’m most proud of (in my book) is to raise the veil on that hidden curriculum so everyone can know what it is.”
Every part of Slow AF Run Club addresses a “painful spot” Evans had in his fitness journey. When training for his first marathon, he couldn’t find proper running gear for his size, so he created a fitness clothing line that caters to bigger bodies. When he first started training, he couldn’t find a place to exercise without being perceived as wanting to lose weight.
“You can be active in the body you have right now,” Evans said. “You can do it for the sake of doing it, for the sake of having fun, being healthy and getting off the couch.”
Evans is on a 40-city tour to promote the new book. He’s also using the tour to network with community leaders he hopes may help him launch not-for-profit chapters of the Slow AF Run Club where plus-size runners can interact and run races together.
It’s been over a decade since that doctor’s appointment. Evans doesn’t think about it much anymore.
“(His) words started my journey,” Evans said. He thinks for “a lot of people, … (his) words may have defeated them.
“I hope that he changed his bedside manner, or he retired.”
Evans now lives with his wife and poodle in Brooklyn, New York, and travels to run. He just ran the Chicago 5K on Oct. 7 and spent the next day cheering on Chicago Marathon runners.
He’s excited to return to Detroit where he’ll be reading and discussing his book on Oct. 14 at the main branch of the Detroit Public Library, and he’s planning to gauge interest in a Detroit Slow AF chapter while he’s here.
“It’s always a warm hug when I come back,” Evans said. “I am so Detroit.”
Correction: This story’s subhead was corrected to show that Evans ran eight marathons, instead of nine. It was also corrected to show that Evans ran the Chicago 5K, not the Chicago Marathon.
This story was updated to clarify his position at Men’s Warehouse.