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Mildenhall Town fans’ favourite Ben Nolan running TCS London Marathon in memory of mum





As left-sided players across the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division will attest to, Ben Nolan has been one of the toughest players to quell this season.

Not only does the Mildenhall Town right-back have a keen eye for goal, decent aerial ability and the quality to come away from tight spaces with the ball seemingly glued to his boots, he also has pace to burn.

However, next month speed will be the furthest thing from the 23-year-old’s mind when he arrives on the start-line for TCS London Marathon on April 21.

Mildenhall’s Ben Nolan will run the London Marathon next month. Picture: Mark Westley
Mildenhall’s Ben Nolan will run the London Marathon next month. Picture: Mark Westley

“It’s been going alright,” Nolan said of his preparations. “I’ve been trying to find the balance between training for the marathon and the fact that we’re getting towards the end of the season with Mildenhall.

“I’ve done a few 10Ks, a few 15Ks and I feel like that I’m going to be fit enough to get through it. I’m going to step it up a bit over the next couple of weeks and maybe look to go 20K or 25K to make sure I’m properly ready.

“I’ve set myself a target of four hours – anything under that would be great.”

The winger/full-back rose through the ranks at Mildenhall. Picture: Mark Westley
The winger/full-back rose through the ranks at Mildenhall. Picture: Mark Westley

But while all of the training will be of benefit from a fitness point of view, of greater importance is the fact that it has allowed Nolan to feel more comfortable about opening up.

He will be running for Cancer Research UK in memory of his mum Maria, who died after a battle with bowel cancer when Nolan was aged just two years old.

An unassuming character, for years Nolan internalised his feelings. Growing up without one of his parents, he felt different to his peers at Burwell Primary School and Bottisham Village College. Yet, not one to go in search of sympathy, Nolan kept quiet.

But since he decided to take up the challenge of clocking up 26.2 miles around the streets of the capital, he has found it easier to vocalise his emotions.

Ben Nolan celebrates opening the scoring for Mildenhall Town at Soham Town Rangers. Picture: Mark Westley
Ben Nolan celebrates opening the scoring for Mildenhall Town at Soham Town Rangers. Picture: Mark Westley

He said: “I’ve not known life with my mum. I grew up without her and I don’t know anything different. In lots of ways it’s something I just tried to avoid and I never really spoke about it.

“It’s hard to say how much of an impact it has had because in lots of ways, for me it’s normal.

“I’d go to mates’ houses as a kid and see all of the family together. It does make you feel like you’re different, but I never spoke about it and some of that is because I thought it would come across as if I wanted sympathy. I’d never want to come across like that.

“To do the marathon for yourself is one thing – it’s a huge challenge. But to be running for such an important charity, that means a lot.

The Burwell-based player has scored 10 goals this term. Picture: Richard Marsham
The Burwell-based player has scored 10 goals this term. Picture: Richard Marsham

“It’s a big thing for me, my dad and the whole family. Since I decided to do it I’ve opened up to a couple of people about what I felt growing up and it feels like a weight off my chest.

“I don’t feel anxiety any more about the subject and although I’m not someone who is the biggest talker, I know now I can do it if I need to.”

A day prior to the marathon, Nolan and his Mildenhall team-mates will be hoping that they receive the Premier Division trophy when they play host to Dereham Town. They need just four points from their remaining six fixtures to be crowned champions, although Nolan – as you would expect – is taking nothing for granted.

“The club made some good signings in the summer but it doesn’t always work. It’s got to gel and you’ve got to find a way to play,” he said.

Nolan has enjoyed playing in a more defensive role this season: Picture: Richard Marsham
Nolan has enjoyed playing in a more defensive role this season: Picture: Richard Marsham

“But Phil (Weavers, manager) nailed things down quickly and after going the first 10 games unbeaten we’ve not looked back.

“Everybody knows their roles, they know jobs and whoever is on the bench is buying into it as well.

“We’ve still got work to do before anything is done and we’re not getting carried away, but this is definitely my most enjoyable season in football.”

Nolan rose through the ranks at Mildenhall as a winger that liked to show his marker a clean pair of heels. But following a season-long stint away at higher-league Cambridge City, he returned with the experience of playing as a full-back and that has been his primary position for much of the current campaign.

Nolan is still able to get forward from right-back. Picture: Mark Westley
Nolan is still able to get forward from right-back. Picture: Mark Westley

His double-figure return of goals highlights that Nolan still has plenty of attacking intent, yet he has been surprised by how much he has enjoyed the other side of the game as part of a Mildenhall rearguard that has kept more than 20 clean sheets.

“I’d played there a few times before this season and I’d always do it for the good of the team. I’d never say no to playing in any position,” he said. “I probably still see myself as a winger or a forward player, but Phil has put the trust in me to play that role.

“Jed (Wigley, left-back) and I have plenty of licence to get forward because we give the team the width. I still like to get forward, but what has changed is that I can see the whole pitch clearer now when I’m picking up the ball a bit deeper.

“It’s made me a better player and I’ve been surprised how much I’ve enjoyed it. We’ve kept a lot of clean sheets and that’s a big reason why we’ve had such a good season so far.”

Mildenhall, who drew 0-0 at Fakenham Town on Saturday, are without a game this weekend.

To visit Nolan’s sponsorship page, click here.