CAMP LEATHERNECK, Helmand Province, Afghanistan --
It began in recruit training nearly 29 years ago, but Arlington, Va., native Maj. Brian Mullery said his love for physical fitness and running has become an integral part of his life ever since.
Mullery is currently deployed to Southwest Afghanistan as a plans officer for 2nd Marine Division (Forward), but that hasn’t stopped him from training as hard as ever for his next marathon. He plans to compete in a Marine Corps Marathon-sponsored run here Oct. 30 to coincide with the main event, also held Oct. 30, in Washington, D.C., where approximately 30,000 runners will take part in the fifth largest U.S. marathon, nicknamed “The People’s Marathon.”
The Marine Corps instilled the importance of physical fitness into Mullery when he enlisted in January 1983. Mullery was an enlisted infantryman, in which physical fitness was sewn into what he called “their fabric of society.” Running was a big part of keeping in shape, but his love for running long distances didn’t come about until much later in his Marine Corps career.
“I lived in Europe for a number of years as a Marine security guard when I was enlisted,” said Mullery, a 1996 graduate of Park University, Mo. “I used long runs as a way to see the city. I remember living in Paris, and I would run in the morning because that’s a neat time to see a big city without a bunch of cars; you also get to see the history of the city. Long distance running is something that I grew into.”
Mullery didn’t just grow into long-distance running, he also changed the frame of mind he had about fitness with the goal of living a long and happy life.
“I remember my lieutenant who was a physical fitness major when I was a sergeant with 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment,” said Mullery. “He would say, ‘If you want to survive and you want to enjoy life when you retire, you need to have the mentality of fitness for life.’ That’s something he told me when I was 25, and almost 25 years later I still try to do that. Whether it’s reading a book that makes me smarter on a subject I don’t know much about, or doing physical activity for strength training, fitness for life is not just physical fitness, but keeping you mentally sharp.”
The long-distance running not only keeps him in shape, but also allows him to think about complex problems; it takes him away from the e-mails, phone calls and stress of work. It gives him the ability to clear his mind and think through issues to find reasonable solutions. When he knows he has a marathon coming up, however, he trains hard, guaranteeing he is ready for race day.
“I do reverse planning off of the race day, which means I want to do two 20-mile runs before the marathon, and then I’ll start my taper – I won’t run more than nine miles before the race,” said Mullery. “The longest distance I’ll run is maybe 3 or 4 miles during the last week. Five days prior to the run, I’ll increase my hydration and get a little extra sleep if that’s possible.”
Mullery has run six marathons, each with a Boston Marathon qualifying time, an impressive feat within the running community.
To any service members or civilians who are interested in registering and running their first marathon, Mullery offered several suggestions.
“Do the training, log the miles, make sure you hydrate,” said Mullery. “I get concerned sometimes when Marines say they are going to do a nine-mile training run and then going to run 26 miles – it will quickly turn into a bad day for them. You wouldn’t go to the rifle range and try qualifying without a little bit of practice prior to qualification.”
Mullery mentioned Marines often ask him why he spends so much time training, and the answer is clear to him. While his current job keeps him on the base most of the time, unlike his infantry service, if ever he is in a vehicle when it rolls over, he wants to be able to pull his fellow Marines to safety. Mullery said, “When the worst day of my life becomes a reality, I want to be able to talk about it the next day.”
Editor’s note: Second Marine Division (Forward) heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.