JACKSON, Mich. — Nathan Martin broke a 41-year-old record last month. At an event in Chandler, Arizona, the Jackson resident ran the fastest marathon ever run by a U.S.-born Black man .
The 31-year-old has been running since middle school. Early on he could tell that he had a gift for racing.
"I was pretty hesitant at first, but by 8th grade they [teachers] convinced me," Martin said. "I did really well my first race and was able to be first for the team and place really high. And, yeah, I guess from there it was history."
He moved to the area after being recruited to Spring Arbor University by then-cross country coach Dante Ottolini.
Ottolini saw Martin grow from a college athlete to a record breaker.
"He wasn't All-American in cross country or any of those that first year," said Ottolini. "But he continued to progress and develop and, by his senior year, he ended up winning the 10k in nationals and then a couple months later winning a marathon and breaking a 21- or 28-year-old record for NAI."
Ottolini coached him for the December trip to the Marathon Project in Arizona where elite runners who competed in the 2020 Olympic trials gathered for a competition after many others were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Martin finished with a time of two hours, 11 minutes and five seconds, becoming the fastest U.S.-born black marathon runner.
“I’m originally like, 'Oh wow, That’s awesome.' You know I had already come off the good time and you know it’s just another thing to say, 'Hey, it’s a great day,"" said Martin. "But, there were a lot of people who were like 'I don’t think you understand what this means,' and after all the people kept congratulating me and things were exploding on my Instagram I was like, 'Maybe I’m not thinking about this.'”
It didn't really set in for Ottolini until he saw his phone blow up after the race.
“You know there aren’t a lot of African American distance runners. And there’s probably a slew of different reasons for that. So, for Nate to accomplish that was a pretty big thing," said Ottolini.
Martin finished 9th overall.
Martin is also the Jackson High School cross country coach, and his athletes are in awe of his accomplishments.
"He's accomplished a lot," said Nathaniel Hobbs, a junior at Jackson High. "I like to learn from the greats, and he's definitely one of the greats to me in running, so I soak up as much knowledge as I can from him."
Jackson High School senior Elena Alvarado said it's "just crazy to think he's actually our coach and we're lucky to have him. He's just an inspiration to be around."
Martin plans on training to qualify for the 2024 Olympic trials with the ultimate goal of competing with the very best on the world stage.
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