“What’s your story?” I asked.

It’s a big question, and Michael Martinez responds with: “Wow.”

He spends a couple of minutes deciding where to start. We’re talking about his “running story.”

Michael is “that guy” in Atlanta’s black running community. At all the runs – big or small – you’ll see his 6’5” frame towering over the crowd as he cheers runners on. As an influencer in the running world, he promotes health, fitness and wellness, but that hasn’t always been his story.

Ten years ago, Michael lost everything. Addictions to alcohol and gambling, along with unhealthy eating habits, had stripped him of his health, home and stability. But what hadn’t been stripped away was his hope.

While sitting in a New York shelter, he looked up and saw a poster. “It was a list of diabetes risk factors.” He went down the list and realized he was at risk for being impacted by the disease. “I was overweight, drinking excessively and had a family history of diabetes.”

Later, in that same shelter, he came across a Runner’s World article that promised readers this: “You’ll run 30 minutes straight after 8 weeks on our training plan.” At 309lbs, Michael wasn’t sure if he could do it, but he did, and that began his fitness journey and life as a runner.

He eventually re-established himself, and as he turned his life around for the better, he lost some friends.

“I was eating right, working out, going to bed early, waking up early and not drinking. That was the opposite of what my old friends were doing.” But steadfast in his goals, he forged ahead. He signed up for his first marathon and started training. That’s when he noticed how supportive the running community is.

During that first marathon, he almost collapsed with just one mile to go. A group of runners held him up and ran the final mile with him. Without them, he doesn’t think he would have made it across the finish line. “I realized then that the family and support I’d been missing existed in my running circle. This was my ‘Run Fam.’”

After that experience, he turned the phrase “Run Fam” into a business. The saying – “Run Fam vs. Everybody” – now lives on shirts, sweaters, hats and other fitness apparel – all designed by Michael. He sells the items through his business – “Run Fam USA.” The goal of his company is to add value to peoples’ lives and to make a difference in the running community. Through the company, he strives to motivate and promote better health and lifestyle choices.

“I didn’t expect to be traveling the world,” he says.

His last marathon was in Paris, and this fall he will run the Berlin Marathon. Running has taken him all around the world and that’s what’s surprised him the most on this journey. He also never expected to be an entrepreneur.

“Running has exposed me to so many things and people from all walks of life,” Martinez said.

Today, he is 70 pounds down from his original weight and worlds away from where he was ten years ago. He’s focused on his 22-month-old daughter, Lauryn, and teaching her all the lessons he’s learned. One of the biggest lessons he can teach her from his experience is to always remain hopeful.

When he thought he’d hit rock bottom, Michael turned his story around by latching on to hope and taking a first step into a life of health, wellness and new beginnings.


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