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Nathan Martin's journey to Tokyo

Posted at 7:39 PM, Feb 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-28 19:39:42-05

LANSING, Mich. — A man on the run with Olympic dreams got a shot at qualifying for the marathon in the 2020 games.

Believe it or not, running didn't always come easy for Olympic-hopeful Nathan Martin.

"In sixth grade, there was this thing called a mile and a third in our gym class. It honestly started off pretty bad I was like 30th or 40th. By seventh grade, I was first or second in the class and everyone was telling me, 'you should run cross country.' I was like 'man, I don't wanna do that, that sounds like a job.' They convinced me, and I ran in my first race and it went well and it's all history from there," Martin said.

Martin will have a chance to race for Olympic gold if he can qualify at the Olympic marathon trials this week.

"It's like playing basketball with LeBron James or catching a pass from Patrick Mahomes, so to be in that race alone, even if you're not in the front is an incredible privilege," Martin said.

Just over a year ago, competing in the Olympics was just a pipedream.

"I reconnected with my coach about 13 months ago. Races started coming together, I started posting some real solid times, and by the end of training, he was like 'oh, wow, I think you've got a shot.' Dante was really invested, and he showed me he cared and wanted me to be there. I could tell he was a really passionate person, and I believed what he had to say."

For Martin, Dante Ottolini's been the support he needs both on and off the track.

"Things haven't been the easiest for me. I've lost both my parents to cancer so I was able to stay in his house for a couple of years, which was an unbelievable provision. He's an awesome guy, treats me like a son," Martin said.

But for Ottolini, Nathan's just another member of the family.

"He's a great person...phenomenal runner, but it comes with so much more. His own language is 'I want to be part of something that's bigger than myself. I want to go to the Olympics, but I want to go to inspire my athletes,'"Ottolini said.

When he's not running, Martin's giving back, coaching cross country at Jackson High School and middle school.

"Don't get me wrong I love running but I love even more being able to share my knowledge and gifts with others and being able to impact the next generation. Whether or not they become superstars or continue running, hopefully, it's changing them as people," Martin said.

"It's a proud dad moment, it's been a privilege to be in this relationship and see who he's become, not just as a runner but as a person as well, so I definitely love Nate," Ottolini said.

You can watch Martin's race in Atlanta at noon Saturday, Feb. 28 on News 10.

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