Cross-country running coach Brook Mullens says that he never misses an opportunity to get outside – for fitness, for learning and for the simple joy of the great outdoors.
Some run for fun, others for exercise, but for Upper School Science and Physical Education teacher Brook Mullens it’s also a great chance to plan new ways to make his classes exciting for his students. “The times when I go out for a run are some of the only times when I can be alone with my own thoughts,” says Brook. “It gives me the chance to think up cool ideas for lesson plans or running adventures.”
Not that he seems short of cool ideas. When he recently introduced a one-off Friday fun day into his cross-country running team, the runners begged him to make it a regular fixture. He has been known to ‘trick’ his teams by distracting them with runs through Christmas markets and as part of carol singing sessions in the winter, and even as part of a trick-or-treating evening at Halloween.
“The important thing is just to make it fun,” says Brook. “If they’re enjoying themselves they forget about the hard work they’re actually putting in, and the exercise just comes naturally. And if they’re engaged with it, you stand much more chance of them coming back the next time, or even deciding they want to go on and do it themselves, which is the ultimate goal.”
“The times I go out for a run are some of the only times I can be alone with my own thoughts.”
Although now an avid runner himself, Brook admits he fell into the sport almost by accident. “I really love cross-country skiing, and so to keep fit for that I got into running.” Originally from New Hampshire, another snowy wonderland, Brook can’t remember when he first put on a pair of cross-country skis, but does recall “being five and skiing out into the woods to cut down a Christmas tree with my family”.
Addicted to living among wintry mountains, he and his wife, Molly, lived and taught in Norway before moving to Switzerland. “Don’t look for me to move to Singapore,” he jokes. In the summer, Brook thinks nothing of trail-running and biking 20km in the steep mountains. “Run when you can, walk when you have to,” is his motto.
Although Brook loves to ski and run through the great outdoors on his own, and with his children, Isabel (Grade 9) and Beck (Grade 7), and Molly, who works in admin for Athletics and Activities (ATAC), he says that “sharing the joy” with students is also enormous fun. And as the coach of the cross-country running and skiing teams, his focus is very much on the students. “Who I am as an educator and who I am as a person are very similar,” he says. “Coaching enables me to bring something to kids that I’ve done my whole life and really care about.”
WORDS OLIVIA GORDON PHOTOGRAPHY BENEDICT JOHNSON