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  • Writer's pictureRob Mullen

Its the final countdown!

Well here we are, the Bristol Half Marathon stands between me and the start of the biggest physical challenge I’ve ever undertaken.

I’ve not written on here for a while, preferring to update on Instagram and other social media. However it’s probably time for some reflection before I jump on the plane. I’d probably break those areas into the things I’ve learnt about my body, my mind and performance levels. I’ll do something on my kit in another post.

It’s worth saying between the last blog I wrote and now, Soph and I welcomed Baby Dave into the family. He’s made his presence felt and is adored by us and his elder brother and sister. There was a good 9 months where he wasn’t keen on sleeping, which isn’t great for training or sanity! We’ve moved house, which took a lot of work and we’ve had to learn some new skills very quickly....including if you break a radiator pipe, turning the water off isn’t going to solve the problem.

So what have I learned:

Body: Rest is really important. With two Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) reconstructions and further cartilage repair, my knees aren’t exactly in their prime. I suspect the hamstrings used to replace both ACLs on both legs used to reconstruct my knees have weakened my overall hamstrings output and I tend to get real tightness there.

I’m pleased with how I’ve built strength in my upper body through a combination of simple exercises and yoga, with no more than a set of glorified elastic bands, to the point where the full 10kg MDS pack is really manageable. Little and often really works for me and I see no need to go back to using a gym in the way that I did. It also provides a bit of pathway as I get older to remain in reasonable shape.

Stretching, core and balance work have been invaluable, particularly as I started this journey. It’s helped me stave off injury, recover and ultimately get faster whilst carrying heavier loads. Oh also, sports massage is great. If you’ve never done it, do it.

I’m proud of my 41 year old body. Not for any aesthetic reason but because it’s a daily miracle.

Mind: I’m pretty resilient. Mentally I can face long periods of time on my own running. I’ve done so much now I can predict the ‘down’ part of my mood almost by mile. There have been occasions on the 90mile Hadrian’s Wall Challenge and more recently the 2nd day of Pilgrims that I had to dig deep but like your second marathon, the pressure of ‘the wall’ is off...because you’ve felt if before, you know it ends. In that sense long distance running is almost Buddhist in its teachings ( there’s going to be change and therefore good becomes bad but you can be assured that good again is inevitable).

Having Soph kick me out of the house has helped, ‘get it done, you’ll feel way better afterwards’. So true. The first step is the hardest, the one out of bed on a cold Sunday morning usually! She’s been incredibly supportive at a very busy time for both of us, particularly with a new baby. I’m very grateful.

One thing with my challenge that I’ve struggled with (and why I’ve changed my social media posts away from times and paces) is the constant comparison that kept creeping into my head. Beating myself up for not being quicker or feeling negative about someone else’s achievements...before giving my head a wobble. I’ve never won a running race in my life (apart from the Dads race..twice) and I’m not likely to, however I am up, running more quickly then at anytime in my life and ultimately competing, which I’m grateful for....especially when I remind myself of the challenge I set and why I set it. That’s not just because of little Chloes predicament but also her parents and any other full time carers. I take for granted putting my trainers on to go running when lots of others don’t get that choice.

Mentally I’ve failed in committing to foam rolling.....don’t judge.

Performance: I’ve pb’d all my previous bests over the last 18 months and that’s 5k to marathon. I’ve been amazed by what I’ve achieved with Ash’s guidance and support. My training blocks have mixed between faster and slower running focuses. That’s ultimately helped with my motivation. There’s something really nice about losing the pack for a couple of weeks and switching to road to see what you’ve got in the tank....certainly seems a lot faster without 10kgs on your back.

However it’s not a straight line. I think some of my trail running was stronger last year, from a min/miles perspective but I put some of that down to better understanding the rigours of the MDS. I’m not there to win. I’m there to finish, come home safely and do myself justice but not at any cost. I think that acceptance has allowed me to relax a little more and possibly enjoy the running more, rather than worrying whether it was 7:36 m/m or 7:42. It doesn’t matter and pretty irrelevant for the end goal.

One thing I learnt fairly early (my first Greenman and the Gower 50) was that I’m rubbish at eating when running. I forget or just don’t want the effort. I worked on that and my hydration strategy, which is particularly pertinent for the desert. Fairly recently I’ve started using Tailwind, which is really helping and takes away some of the pressure of getting the calorie intake right.

Also I’m way better at the monkey bars now, which is good because I love a Tough Mudder type event (other brands available😂).

I am starting to think about whats next? I don't want to lose the base fitness and I love having a big goal to aim for. I don't think it will be ultra running but who knows......

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