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Empowering Every Pace

The rise of an inclusive running club, Slow AF Run Club, that welcomes people of all running abilities

By Olga Lucia Torres

What if I told you that you could be a runner in the body you're in right now, without losing weight or having to time-travel back to a younger you?

I know what you're thinking: how could I run when I can't get up off the couch?

Three people smiling after completing a race. Next Avenue
Olga Lucia Torres with her two running guides after her first half-marathon.  |  Credit: Courtesy of Olga Lucia Torres

The Slow AF Run Club, founded by the charismatic and passionate Martinus Evans, a Detroit native, has taken the fitness community by storm, challenging conventions and redefining success in the world of running.

When I found that I couldn't walk without banging into walls because of vestibular problems, I suddenly wanted to become a runner.

Evans was inspired when a doctor told him he would die if he didn't lose weight. When he asked if he could take up running to drop the pounds, the doctor told him that he would die if he tried to run. Something had to give. Evans started running anyway and hasn't stopped ever since.

"I really want people to understand that they don't need to go on a special diet or take a special drug to be a runner," Evan says.   

I wish Martinus Evans or Latoya Shauntay Snell of Running Fat Chef had been around when I was growing up. I could have seriously benefited from been-there experts advocating the benefits of running for everyone, not just thin and young people. I used to look at runners and think they were a different species. I couldn't possibly do what they did. Running was not for me in my overweight body.

My Journey to Running

Then, in August of 2000, I went into a coma that resulted in a brain injury. When I found that I couldn't walk without banging into walls because of vestibular problems, I suddenly wanted to become a runner.

But how does a disabled person from Queens, New York do that?

I found the Achilles International Club, which provided me with two guides so I wouldn't run into people, trees or other objects that kept popping out of nowhere. With their help, I ended up running multiple races. Still, I knew I wasn't like other runners.

If only I knew not to compare. Jetaun Pope, 42, a high school algebra teacher in Chicago and Slow AF Run Club member and moderator, recommends that runners stop the comparing game and embrace their unique journey.

One of Slow AF Run Club's most powerful affirmations is "Comparison is the thief of joy."

One of Slow AF Run Club's most powerful affirmations is "Comparison is the thief of joy."

An Inclusive Space

Evans talks a lot about the joy of movement and the sense of accomplishment it brought him. His running journey was marked by self-discovery, self-love and a realization that fitness comes in all shapes, sizes and paces, which he uses to inspire the over 10,000 members of the virtual run club, which is a website and an app.

Evans has created an inclusive space where people of all backgrounds, fitness levels, ages, abilities and sizes can come together to support each other's walking and running goals. The focus is on emotional well-being and support. By sharing his own struggles, others feel safe to openly discuss their challenges, creating belonging and empowerment.

What started as a small local group has evolved into a global movement.


Through social media (almost 95,000 followers), his podcast (The 300 Pounds and Running Podcast), speaking engagements and his own book ("Slow AF Run Club: The Ultimate Guide for Anyone Who Wants to Run"), Evans tells people that believing in yourself is pivotal. It requires you to embrace your uniqueness and find strength in your vulnerabilities.

"My long-term goal as I age is to continue to be active and healthy."

Even though he encourages everyone to lace up their running shoes and get out there, no matter the pace, he also tells his followers to always see the doctor, get bloodwork, and know what's happening in their bodies.

"Before you engage in any vigorous activity, it's imperative that you have a conversation with your health care provider," says Dr. Yves Duroseau, Chair of Emergency Medicine, Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

'The Goal Is to Stay Vertical'

Duroseau, a runner, highlights the benefits of physical activity: walking alone helps control your blood sugar. And running heightens those benefits, helping reduce the risk of heart disease, reduce blood pressure, and improve memory.

A person smiling holding two books. Next Avenue
Martinus Evans, author of 'Slow AF Run Club'  |  Credit: 300 Pounds and Running/Facebook

"The goal is to stay vertical. Our whole daily existence relies on us being able to walk. And so you want to preserve those muscles, preserve your joints, strengthen them, build muscle, [and] bone mass," he says. Since you involuntarily lose muscle mass at a rate of 3-8% after age 30, it is important to incorporate walking and running into your exercise routine to help combat this natural muscle loss.

"My long-term goal as I age is to continue to be active and healthy. Having a group like Slow AF as a community of supporters really helps make that possible," says Bethany Steuer, 46, an attorney and Slow AF Run Club member and moderator from Albany, New York.

As Evans continues to inspire and empower individuals around the world, the Slow AF Run Club serves as a testament to the fact that fitness is not limited to a specific mold. It's about finding joy in movement, discovering one's own strength, and building a supportive network that celebrates every achievement.

Olga Lucia Torres
Olga Lucia Torres is a former public defender who teaches narrative medicine at Columbia University. She also works as a patient advocate and has volunteer leadership roles within various foundations that seek to help and empower patients. Olga has been published in the New York Times, Popsugar, the New York Daily News, and various other publications on disability rights, healthcare and Latino issues. Read More
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