Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen made history Monday by becoming perhaps the first active FBS coach to run the Boston Marathon.
Mullen, now in his eighth year of coaching the Bulldogs, recounted his run — likening it to “taking part in the Masters, Kentucky Derby or Olympic Opening Ceremonies” — in a first-hand account for Campus Rush.
The experience, Mullen said, was on par with his greatest football feats at Mississippi State and Florida.
“And after I willed myself through the final stretch of the 26.2-mile course on Monday, I experienced something completely different than winning national championships, a conference title or leading Mississippi State to No. 1 in the country for the first time in school history,” he wrote. “Those are team accomplishments, and they are unbelievable feelings I was lucky enough to have in my career. But it’s a different blender of emotions when you cross that finish line — your body is drained and your mind is shot, but you are just so overcome with joy.”
Mullen trained for several months to participate in the marathon to help raise $36,000 for his Mullen Family 36 Foundation (Mullen has currently raised $45,000).
Mullen said the toughest part of the run was a portion famously known as Heartbreak Hill, a series of three hills near the end of the course where the marathon became more about mental endurance.
“To me, that was the toughest, as my heart rate really went up and I started to get winded. Then there’s a second hill, which in my mind I was like, ‘This is Heartbreak Hill,’” Mullen recounted. “I’m really starting to feel it. My feet and ankles are throbbing, I’m feeling dehydrated, pounding water and Gatorade. My body was starting to feel not right.
“Then, I actually hit Heartbreak Hill around Mile 20. I thought I’d already done it. But once you get to the top of it, it’s fantastic. You run down and hit Boston College, around 21.5 miles in, and there’s a wild and loud scene and everyone is going crazy and rooting for you. And at that point, I just kept asking myself, ‘How do I finish?’”
Mullen eventually powered through the race, averaging 10:15 per mile with the support of Bulldogs fans on the scene — plus the occasional Alabama & Auburn fan.
— MSU Football (@HailStateFB) April 18, 2016
Mullen called the simple fact that he finished one of his greatest individual accomplishments ever. He also came away with a new coaching point for the future.
“I thought about our players at Mississippi State a lot at that time; they really helped push me through this,” Mullen said. “They’re going to have a hard time saying anything to me next year when I talk about mental toughness and finishing.”