Murph 4.0

“Murph” has become synonymous for me with Memorial Day. For those unfamiliar, it is a workout named in honor of Lieutenant Michael Murphy, a Navy SEAL who was killed in combat.  The workout is a 1-mile run followed by 300 squats, 200 push-ups and 100 pull-ups, and then finished with another 1-mile run. The prescribed workout is to complete it while wearing a 20-pound weight vest. CrossFit gyms across the country take part and, despite it being the toughest, longest workout that I will do each year, it is my favorite.

Obligatory post-Murph photo op.
Obligatory post-Murph photo op.

This year was my fourth go around and I completed it once again with the weight vest, but for the first time at CrossFit Kingfield. With a continually growing community, it was fun to see so many people attempt the workout for the first time. No matter whether people did “Murph” with a partner or did it scaled or just moved slowly, they put in the work and the sweat and the effort.

I did very little to prepare specifically for “Murph” this year. I’ve been going to class five times per week but we’ve done little in the way of push-ups or pull-ups recently and this was the first time I put on the weight vest in a year. To try and counterbalance the lack of preparedness, on Sunday I made a concerted effort to eat clean and was asleep by 9:30pm. I had a eggs and bacon and white rice and protein shake a few hours ahead of time for breakfast on Memorial Day and I did my best to do some mobility work before the workout started. But last minute efforts don’t really save you from the slog of this workout.

I was in the second heat of the morning with 12-15 others. Quickly, or perhaps I should say slowly, I fell to back of the pack on the first 1-mile run. The vest is not very comfortable while running as it keeps slamming against your chest but I kept moving and it took me 10 minutes and change. I note how long the run took as it emphasizes how I then spent the next 46 minutes working on the squats, push-ups and pull-ups.

I started with a rep scheme of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups and 15 squats. Early on the push-ups were troublesome and I had to break them up into small sets. People around me were moving at a good pace and I had to remind myself that the point of “Murph” is to finish, it is not a race. Nor did it make any sense to compare.

With no stalking horse in mind, my attention kept turning to the clock. While I realize I said it was not a race, I did want to make sure I maintained a decent pace. Feeling that I was moving slowly, I switched up the rep scheme to 30 squats, 10 push-ups, 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 5 pull-ups. Instead of the 20 rounds I marked on the board, I was now at least able to cross out two at a time.

The community members were amazing throughout cheering myself and everyone else on. Eventually I was the last one in my heat left in the gym still working; the others had either finished or were on their second 1-mile run. As I chipped away and neared the end, Coach Danny came over for to provide the push I needed to wrap up the last of my pull-ups and push-ups. By this point, my hands had developed blisters and one actually burst and I was dripping some blood on the floor and on the bar. He told me not to worry about it and keep going. “Let’s do these 5 pull-ups one a t time. Ready. 5-4-3-2-1. Good. Again and we are going in 5-4-3-2-1…”

Finally, it was time to run (or jog) again and I was out the door. I repeated to myself to just keep moving. Don’t stop, don’t walk, just keep the pace. As I arrived back near the gym for the last 400-meters, I was amazed at Louis, Jake and Ron who had just completed “Murph” started running with me. Mostly quiet but here and there words of encouragement as they saw made sure I kept the pace. With the last 100 meters and the end in sight, I started sprinting. It was not to show off, but it was a second wind, 20 seconds of courage, thanks to everyone’s cheers and applause to finish strong.

And then I immediately collapsed on the ground and someone very kindly helped remove the vest.

Despite being last in my heat, I beat my time from last year and it was my fastest finish to date doing it with the weight vest.

2013 00:49:25 Rx
2014 01:12:50 Rx + Weight Vest  (20#)
2015 01:15:30 Rx + Weight Vest  (20#)
2016 01:08:42 Rx + Weight Vest  (20#)

“Murph” allows for an amazing display of community, both in a small discreet way like the guys running the last 400 meters with me Kingfield but also on a larger level as thousands upon thousands of people across the country honor our armed forces by enduring some blistered hands, sore legs and tons of sweat to say thank you and show our respect. It is not political, it is certainly bi-partisan and it definitely feels purely American.

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