Meet the athlete - Sophie Mullins
I've admired Sophie for a long time as an ultra-runner. I first came across her when I lived in Edinburgh and she competed for Fife AC. In fact, we finished within a minute of each other at the 2015 London marathon. Since then Sophie has gone on to win the Anglo-Celtic plate in 2019 and represent Great Britain at ultra-distance.
I lived in Scotland for over a decade before moving to Spain at the end of last year. I work for LiveCode as a software developer but am leaving to focus full time on coaching at the end of October. I've just set up a new website - www.ultrapotential.org - and am currently open to new athletes.
I have lived in Spain with my Mum since just before my Dad died. We have two perfect little rescue dogs. One is very clever, loves doing puzzles, swimming and trail running. The other lies down behind a fan and wonders why she doesn't cool down... They are completely different but adore each other.
I spent most of my childhood outside, running around, climbing things, swinging off the high beams in the barn with bailer twine and launching myself off homemade BMX ramps in the stable yard. I was fortunate to grow up with horses as my Mum ran a stable yard for (mostly) competition horses and she had an amazing eye for honest ponies. Those ponies and I would happily disappear for hours at a time across the countryside.
I was coached by Ron Morrison of Fife AC until 2017, since then I've self-coached. When I was in Edinburgh (and before the pandemic!) I did quite a few of my long runs with Nicola Duncan and Rachel Newstead.
My favourite distance is 100km, both on the road and trail.
I got a bad ankle injury from mountain racing that has taken a while to recover from so my training has been quite different recently. Prior to that I ran 11 times a week as I could commute by foot. The minimum commute distance was 5km - usually through Holyrood Park and over part of Arthur's Seat, so some days were just 10km. One evening each week I would run from work to the Pentlands, do a loop and run home (about 2.5-3H) and on another evening I would run back to near home and do a session in the Meadows. All of my faster running is continuous. I never stop to recover. Depending on the week I might do another session or tempo run. Saturday was usually my second long run and Sunday was recovery, crosstraining or rest. Now I do a lot of my easier sessions on Zwift (bike) with a Hypoxic generator which simulates higher altitude so it's easier when I'm mountain running. I also row a couple of times a week (3200-10000m), swim most days in the summer and do one or two short weights sessions a week. I do some form of mobility or balance work every day, usually just a few minutes but sometimes up to an hour.
I plan training around my menstrual cycle. The science is so far behind where it should be with this and studies have been pretty small so far, but we do know that for some people hormone changes can have a really noticeable effect on training. I find that days 3-12 are good for higher intensity training, both in terms of performance and recovery. Days 13-15 are good for long endurance runs, and especially for long runs with faster paces mixed in (like 2H easy, 20 tempo, 20 easy) or progressive fast finish long runs. Days 16-18 are also good for long, moderate intensity efforts. From about days 19-24, as progesterone rises, I sometimes feel short of breath, especially on hills. I don't enjoy running in this phase so much and tend to take things more cautiously. Just knowing why I'm finding the hills uncomfortable has helped a lot as I just accept it and don't worry. In training I would ease off but in key races I push through so it doesn't have much impact on racing. The days after progesterone drops are sometimes accompanied by inflammation so I'm extra careful to warm up thoroughly and run through some basic balance and mobility, even before easy runs. I usually plan a floating rest day towards the end of my cycle, which I take when my body needs it. If I'm going to step up any of my weights I do it mid-cycle when testosterone should be at its highest (although the amount is still comparatively tiny).
As I filter desalinated water for drinking I add in Elete electrolyte drops. There are no added flavours but it still makes the water taste good! I also take HealthSpan Elite B12, Quercetin and Vitamin D. I take the Quercetin as a mast cell stabiliser to reduce allergy symptoms.
My favourite food pre-race is rice, tofu and veggies. I need to improve my in-race solids consumption but up to 8 hours I stick with Maurten. Post-race I love food like rice and beans.
Chamonix is the best place in the world to run, but the Costa Blanca is a close second. Chamonix trails are so perfect and fast! The trails here are much rockier and quite often involve a little light scrambling. A mountain run here is always fun but usually quite slow.
My running highlight was definitely winning the Anglo Celtic Plate in 2019. It was a perfect day for me where almost everything went right. I took advantage of an early split in the pack to get a lap ahead and after that it felt so easy and fun.
I love the Montreux trail festival because I love running and I love Queen and it combines both. It's basically a party and a race rolled into one.I have had terrible luck at the Highland Fling (too much falling over) but I love it as a race. It's also part race, part party. I'm obsessed with the CCC (one of the UTMB races) as the course is perfect for me and so beautiful, but so far I have one bad fall (my knee swelled so much it literally wouldn't bend) and one no start (this year, post-injury).
My best performance was at the Anglo Celtic Plate in 2019. I improved my time by nearly 30 minutes and won the British 100km Championship. There were quite a few ‘worst performances’ towards the end of 2011 before I was diagnosed with mast cell disease (and told I would never run again!)
Life is full of obstacles and diversions; they can seem insurmountable in the moment but sometimes they send you down another beautiful trail you hadn't seen before. Reaching my potential motivates me.
I've got a really nice Adidas skort (with pockets) that’s great for running. I got an Apple Watch for Christmas which runs Strava so I can use Beacon. Beacon gives me more freedom to follow random interesting trails and go exploring.
I had a bad ankle sprain from a mountain race at the end of last year but because of Covid I didn't get beyond an X-Ray. I tried DIY rehab, but the foot was improperly aligned and that led to a grade three stress fracture. The consultant was disinterested and unhelpful. He said to just keep trying running on it to see if it hurt. I ended up out for months and missing the entire summer season. Fortunately, I got a second opinion over Zoom after a few weeks of making it worse... After that I got a hypoxic generator and a Zwift membership and focused on getting fit on my bike.
More than the big stars, I would say the people around me have inspired me over the years. As I improved at Fife AC I moved into Ron Morrison's training group which had a really strong group of girls. We won team medals at most distances in Scotland, including gold at the National Cross Country, and did pretty well nationally with silver and bronze team medals at the London Marathon which serves as the British Marathon Championships. After moving to Edinburgh I ran quite a bit with Nicola Duncan who is the kindest person on the planet but also hard as nails.
I have Penyagolosa (60km) this weekend and then the Costa Blanca Trails Marathon in November. I'm hoping to run both well enough to push up my ITRA score which has dropped after nearly 2 years without racing. That will mean I can apply for elite places in the races I want to do next year. Depending on how my body feels after Costa Blanca Trails, I'll either take some time off running or do the local mountain race series.
You can contact Sophie via her website - www.ultrapotential.org or find her on Instagram as @runswritescode.