Nathan Martin is Breaking Records and Stereotypes
Nathan Martin just broke a 41-year-old record at the Marathon Project held this past December. He finished in 2:11:05, making him the fastest US born Black marathoner of all time. He placed ninth, beating out Olympians and professionals with far deeper pedigrees.
In addition to being a super-fast runner, Nathan is also on a mission to give back and inspire others, especially the kids he coaches. Instead of leaving his high school coaching job to turn pro and join an elite training team, he decided to stay and continue training with his college coach Dante Ottolini at Spring Arbor University.
In this episode, Nathan discusses how he first started running, the tragic deaths of both of his parents, and his unlikely path to record-breaking running success. He also shares his thoughts on why there are comparatively few American born Black runners in long distance running and how he sees that changing in the future. Lastly, he talks about his next goal which involves hopefully setting a huge PR!
Nathan Martin was born in Chicago Heights, Illinois and raised in Three Rivers, Michigan. He started running Cross Country in Middle School after doing well in the gym class fitness test. He quickly discovered he had talent, and with the encouragement of others, kept with it. He was able to excel at the high school level, breaking three different school records and finishing runner-up at the MHSAA D2 state finals in the mile.
At Spring Arbor University, Nathan majored in Recreation and Leisure Management with a minor in Computer Science. As a freshman, he came in underdeveloped as far as training goes. However, after a couple of years of hard work, his potential started to show. By the end of senior year, he became a National Champion in three different events and set the NAIA Marathon record.
Post college Nathan continued pursuing running to see how far his talents could take him, which ultimately led to an incredible opportunity to coach at the MHSAA D1 level, as well as substitute teaching in Jackson County. At first it was just a way to keep a flexible schedule, but he quickly fell in love with it and his and his coach’s new focus became how to make everything work together, which inspired them to create the Great Lakes Running Club.
Through this process, Nathan was still making huge gains in running, most notably the 2019 20k Championships where he finished runner up, and now, his finish at the 2020 Marathon Project where he finished 9th with a 2:11:05 putting him 49th on the all-time US Marathoner list and breaking a 41-year-old record set by Herman Atkins, making Nathan the fastest US Born Black Marathoner.
Questions Nathan is asked:
3:20 You made history at the Marathon Project on December 20th, by becoming the fastest US born Black man to run a marathon in 2:11:05, breaking a more than 40-year-old record. What does that feel like and did you even know about the record before the race?
4:16 Can you give us a recap of the race in Arizona, how it went, what your strategy was, all the details?
5:36 There’s two sets of pace groups in that race, the 2:09 group and the 2:11 group. What made you not want to go ahead with the 2:09 group?
7:35 Easing up on your pace a little instead of staying with the 2:09 group left you out in no-man’s land for a little while, didn’t it?
8:22 You ended up in ninth place, which is obviously very impressive on such a fast course where so many guys went 2:09, so congratulations for that. It must have felt amazing to have such a PR and to crack the top 10.
9:28 I’d love to hear a little bit more about your back story. How did you first get into running and did you like it immediately?
11:15 You ran through high school and you ran in college, and you worked with a coach that certainly changed your life. Can you tell us a little bit about your coach and that relationship?
12:31 Dante Ottolini is still your coach today, right?
12:36 During college you lost your parents to cancer. How did running help you get through those hard times?
14:32 It sounds like your team really had your back when you lost your parents. That’s amazing.
15:03 After college, you could have left Michigan to be a pro or train somewhere else, but you stayed and became a substitute teacher and high school coach. Why did you make that decision? What does coaching bring to your life?
16:36 It sounds like you get more out of coaching your athletes than they get from you.
16:50 Do you think you would ever consider turning pro?
19:21 Have you considered staying in Michigan and maybe joining Hansons-Brooks?
19:59 One thing that I wanted to ask you is do you have any insight as to why more Black Americans aren't involved in distance running? Black Americans dominate track and field but are not as well represented in the longer distances. Do you have any thoughts of why this is?
21:41 Why didn’t you switch to basketball or football or something like that?
22:28 As a coach, how do you keep kids motivated when the other sports come calling?
23:12 Obviously running, at least in the United States, is not as glamorous as the NFL or the NBA, so I think this is an issue all across the country no matter what race you’re from, so how do we get more people interested in running? And I don’t know the answer. I don’t know if you have any insight on that.
24:02 What was the reaction when you came home from Arizona with your athletes, people in town, your coach? What did they say to you?
24:58 What are you training for now? What’s coming up next?
25:38 The Olympics 10k standard is 28 minutes so that would be a big PR for you. What’s your PR right now?
26:16 What are some of the specific things that you would do to run the 10k in 28 minutes, or is that still a mystery?
27:01 Are you basically the fastest guy in town or do you have some good training partners that can help you out?
Questions I ask everyone:
27:58 If you could go back and talk to yourself when you started running, what advice would you give?
28:49 What is the greatest gift running has given you?
29:34 Where can listeners connect with you?
Quotes by Nathan:
“So I’m like, You know what? Hey, we need to be smart about this race. We’re looking to hit a huge PR. If we can stay with this 2:09 group, we’re going to do it but I need to protect myself and make sure I have a good day and don’t let others affect that.”
“Always, whatever I’m doing, I want to make sure that I’m connecting with people and finding ways to impact them. So if I did leave to a training group, it’d have to be more than just faster or to get to the Olympics type thing.”
“Most people enjoy hearing what they’re able to do and that’s definitely what I would try and make sure I do with my athletes.”
“You need people you can look towards. In one sense, I broke a record. Great for me. But in a whole ‘nother sense, it allows somebody to see somebody who’s achieved something and say, ‘You know what, that’s what I want to achieve. I think I can do that.’ And then they carve a path to find a way.”
Take a Listen on Your Next Run
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