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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Aaron Martens had a cold. He hadn’t been able to kick it in time for the annual Ragnar Relay team race, but he ran anyway. He ran through the sniffles, stuffy head and runny nose.

“The guys who won the race had the same cold,” he said two days after the Miami-to-Key West relay team event. “That’s what makes us runners. We run even if we’re sick. If you can still walk, you can run.”

Same thing happened last fall. Martens had walking pneumonia, but he kept his commitment to run the Philadelphia Marathon.

Since taking up running about two years ago, Martens, 40, has earned the right to be called a runner. But that’s not, of course, how most people know him. They know him as a highly successful Bassmaster Elite Series pro. Training for a race provides the motivation to run, and he runs to stay healthy.

Right now, feeling very fit (despite the cold), he is moving fast toward the biggest event of the season: The Bassmaster Classic taking place Feb. 22-24, on Grand Lake.

The Classic’s first prize is $500,000 and an instant entry for the next Classic. That provides security for a season. The prestige, media and fan attention, and new sponsorships can change a career.

Sure, Martens would embrace a winner’s package, but he’s already a star of the sport. He has a huge fan base, especially in Japan. He’s racked up $1.9 million in Bassmaster earnings alone. He owns six Bassmaster titles — including his most recent in the 2012 postseason: 2012 Toyota Trucks All-Star champ — and 10 Top 10 finishes. He was the 2005 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, too.

During Major League Fishing’s August filming at Chautauqua Lake in Western New York, a ritual took place each evening as the sun was setting. A lone runner would pass Major League Fishing’s lakeside studio set, pacing himself at a steady clip. He would glance over at the set and wave enthusiastically if anyone noticed that he was running by.

That lone runner was angler Aaron Martens, and he was training for the Philadelphia Marathon that would take place less than two months after completion of the Chautauqua event. Martens ran every day, anywhere from five to 12 miles. Even after spending all day fishing competitively or filming production work, the early evening hours still meant one thing – a training run.

Martens, a six-time B.A.S.S. winner with 55 Top Ten finishes, began running in 2011 and began serious marathon training this past summer.

In the beginning, he took what he considered a long run one day – the object was to see how far he could go. His run was 3.5 miles – not bad but not exactly marathon material. “That’s the best I could do. It was slow, and I couldn’t go a step farther,” he said.

But soon the distances increased and the pace was faster. By August of this year, the marathon training was on schedule. Martens had a brief setback in late October, a bout of walking pneumonia that coincided with Major League Fishing’s second fall filming, at Lake Istokpoga in Florida. But after the brief illness knocked him down for the better part of two weeks, he recovered and competed in Philadelphia.

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