The District Running Collective cofounder has an insatiable drive to expend creative energy through running, DJ sets and design work.
“I’m just interested in many different things,” Matt Green says of his identity as a multihyphenate.
His dizzying professional scorecard — fine artist, graphic designer, government 9-to-5er, entrepreneur, motorcycle enthusiast and DJ — points to a rare, almost visionary ability to morph passion and dreams into work.
Green, a DMV native, is a self-described “child of the world.” He has an insatiable drive to expend creative energy that shapes how he moves through the world and his community.
His non-negotiable: purpose is foundational to everything he touches.
Green began cultivating his fine art chops in high school, launching a clothing line of tees featuring original sketches. In college, his interests shifted to painting portraits.
Even then, he was keen to set creative boundaries; his painting became (and remains) a sacred space.
“It was the thing I kept for myself because I did everything else for other folks,” Green says. “I didn’t want to be a professional artist. [When people would say], ‘I want to commission you to do a painting or a mural,’ I wouldn’t charge because I didn’t want that to be another service I provided.”
Instead, a love of fine art eventually transformed into an exploration of the full panorama of design careers.
“I saw there’s a whole world I didn’t know about when it came to graphic design, web design and illustration — where I could channel the things I would do in fine art [into a digital space].”
Green’s day job is visual information specialist for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission where, among many things, he communicates and presents design concepts.
He occasionally dips his toe into painting when inspired to gift an original work of art to friends.
“[I make it clear] this is something special that I’m sharing with you, not something I’m trying to make money off of,” Green says.
District Running Collective
The District Running Collective (DRC) is among Green’s proudest ventures. What started 10 years ago as an alternative to meeting people at networking events and happy hours is now a powerful vehicle for promoting wellness, culture and community.
“We combined two worlds through fitness,” Green says.
He and his cofounders had an aha moment when they realized most participants shared a common background: They were HBCU graduates.
DRC, whose motto is “redefining our possible every single day,” organically built a rich community of Black runners that exploded into events and eventually weekly runs in 2014, inspiring an entire movement.
“It was something we thought D.C. needed,” Green says. “I think we were right because it sparked this community fitness-driven industry.”
Today, DRC counts Baltimore-based global sportswear powerhouse Under Armour among its collaborators and partners. Under Armour has been its lead sponsor for six years and counting, elevating the profile and reach of DRC.
Green notes while all are and always will be welcome at DRC, their very existence shatters the myth that a runner is a “40-year-old skinny white male with little running shorts.”
Green, a Black man with locs, tattoos and a beard, says it’s vital for people like him to see themselves represented in spaces they haven’t always felt included. DRC inspired others to start similar crews in other major cities and empowered them to learn from missteps.
“We’re providing a different narrative around what it means to move,” Green says.
The Birth of Mars
“I had an interest in music,” Green says. “I would go to different parties and respected the [DJs] in the industry; those guys are professionals. But I never thought I would be the one at the party playing the music.”
The Covid-19 pandemic was a strange time.
As a prolonged period of mass disruption to everyday life, many craved a return to normalcy. Green fell on the other end of the spectrum and used the pandemic as a creativity incubator.
Alongside learning to build motorcycles, DJing emerged as an unexpected diversion and unique chance to be schooled in the basics of the craft by seasoned local DJ and friend Jerome Baker III. The hobby soon developed into a legitimate side hustle and extension of his brand.
Green initially resisted becoming a club DJ. But after six months of spinning privately, he felt the urge to step into the spotlight.
“I got to the point that I was ready for people to hear my music,” Green says. “I’m doing all this practicing and I want to perform in front of people.”
Green would soon get the chance to showcase (and get vindication) for his hard-won skills.
They eventually invited Green to open. That was the night Mars, Green’s alter ego, was born. He’s been spinning on the scene ever since.
Green describes those early days of DJing as “two worlds colliding” when people in his community would relieve the stress of the pandemic by going outside to bars or running.
“It was pretty seamless for me,” Green says. “I’m DJing at night, then I’m running in the mornings and the evenings during the week.”
He notes the same people supporting DRC became the loudest advocates of his music.
“[My passions] all exist within one another, from a personal and professional [standpoint], because I always enjoy what I’m doing. I don’t have to do any of these extra businesses because I’m making enough money to live from my career. I don’t have to take on things that I don’t want to and that’s the beauty of it.”
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