Nathan Martin’s extraordinary accomplishment at the Marathon Project in Chandler, Arizona, two years ago went beyond his initial realization. Completing the 26.2 miles in an impressive time of 2:11:05, he achieved a personal best when races were being canceled and postponed due to the pandemic. Little did he know, this accomplishment made him the fastest American-born Black marathoner, surpassing Herm Atkins’ record of 2:11:52 set in 1979.
The impact of Martin’s achievement within the Black community was overwhelming. In an interview, he recalls the electrifying energy and support he received from fellow Black runners and fans. His record-breaking performance ignited enthusiasm in smaller races, particularly from groups like We Run 313, a Detroit-area Black running group. As Martin describes it, the energy and special camaraderie among Black runners are undeniable when they accomplish something extraordinary.
Martin, now 33, will once again participate in a highly competitive race this weekend – the New York City Marathon. Alongside some of the world’s most elite runners, Martin will race through all five boroughs, starting from the Staten Island side of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. Among his fellow competitors are renowned athletes like Kenya’s defending champion Evans Chebet, Canada’s North American record holder Cam Levins, and Ethiopia’s Mosinet Geremew, who holds the fastest marathon time this year among those running in New York on Sunday. (Kelvin Kiptum, the recent world marathon record breaker with a time of 2:00:35 in Chicago, is not competing in Sunday’s race.)
Martin acknowledges the unique and spirited nature of the New York City Marathon. He describes the scenic route and the incredible energy exuded by the crowd and atmosphere. Martin has been diligently preparing for the challenging course by incorporating tempo runs into his training regime. He admits underestimating the terrain when he ran his first New York City Marathon last year, including five bridges and numerous hills. Learning from that experience, Martin emphasizes the importance of patience and respecting the hills.
Despite his previous eighth-place finish, Martin is cautiously optimistic about this Sunday’s race. He acknowledges feeling confident and suggests that achieving a personal record (PR) in New York wouldn’t be out of the question. Reflecting on his progress, Martin recently set a personal best time of 2:10:45 at the Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, elevating his status as one of the country’s fastest marathoners.
Martin’s journey with running can be traced back to a challenging moment during a gym-class physical fitness test in sixth grade. Initially struggling, he gradually improved and ultimately joined his middle school’s cross country team based on encouragement from others. This led to a successful running career through school, culminating in Spring Arbor University, where he set a marathon record at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national championship in 2013.
Today, in addition to his record-breaking feats and nationwide marathon pursuits, Martin works as a high school running coach in Michigan. While his student-athletes admire his achievements, they also keep him grounded by offering critiques on his Instagram posts. Martin, however, takes it all in stride, as his main goal is to instill a love for movement and help his students progress.
“Coaching kids and connecting with them goes beyond focusing on personal achievements,” Martin says. “It’s about guiding them forward and encouraging them to embrace the joy of running.”
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