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.