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Meet Murph

by Casey Douglas

CrossFit. It’s the kind of fitness trend that elicits two very different responses: people either love it, live it and breathe it, or hate it so passionately and reverently that just mentioning the term is enough to send them into a 10-minute long rant about injuries, form and commercialization.

But I’m not here to talk to you about CrossFit, and I implore you to set aside your feelings on the matter and consider completing what I deem to be one of the most worthwhile workouts of this era, a physical challenge of multi-functional aptitude, created by CrossFit, Inc. and known as “MURPH.”

MURPH is simple but difficult, ruthlessly straightforward and exceptionally down-to-business. It’s a sandwich of cardio and strength training, with the bread being a two-mile run and the filling being 300 squats, 200 pull-ups and 100 push-ups. The workout has been completed in gyms and CrossFit “boxes” across the world, with modifications assigned to the routine in order to accommodate all levels of athlete (example: push-ups are done on one’s knees, or pull-ups are done using TRX bands.)

However, in its purest essence, such as in the international CrossFit Games competition, MURPH is completed by athletes wearing weighted vests, running six-minute miles without any alterations. It’s a workout tough enough to bring even the fittest in the world to their knees.

Though MURPH surely is mentally and physically excruciating, it has a certain appeal to those looking to challenge themselves and has its roots in one of the most demanding careers in the world.

Meet Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy of Patchogue, New York, namesake of MURPH and a soldier who acted with valor and bravery beyond the highest call of duty.

Murphy was a military man of many exceptional accomplishments. His career began when he graduated from Penn State, after which he turned down offers to two law schools to join the Navy and become a SEAL. He then worked to ensure that al-Qaeda terrorists could not train in or launch strikes from Afghanistan after the World Trade Center attack and served on missions in Jordan, Iraq (twice), Qatar and Djibouti. However, Murphy’s most heroic feat, the moment for which MURPH is named, occurred in Afghanistan on June 27, 2005.

According to the official Navy SEAL report, Murphy was the leader of a four-man Navy SEAL mission that secretly infiltrated into the Hindu-Kush Mountains..One day after their arrival, the Taliban ambushed the team. Murphy intrepidly climbed onto higher ground in order to make a call for rescue, a decision that would expose him to the enemy, but a risk he wagered in order to try and save his men.

In response to his call, eight Navy SEALs and eight Army Night Stalker commandos came to their rescue, but perished when a rocket-propelled grenade hit their MH-47 helicopter. Meanwhile, Murphy had been spotted by the Taliban during the rescue call. He took on enemy fire and was mortally wounded but fought on for about 45 minutes with his men, allowing one member of his squad to escape before he himself was killed. Murphy’s body was found on July 4, 2005.

Rear Admiral Joseph Maguire, Commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, is recorded telling Michael Murphy’s father, “Don’t think these men went down easily… Taliban bodies were strewn all over, 30-40 were killed, with a total of 80 casualties from the four-man team.”

Another SEAL familiar with Murphy said, “I’ve heard from the one who survived, details about your final moments, and I just want to say that you are an inspiration, a hard core warrior through and through, exactly what every Team guy aspires to be like.”

This is a challenge every fitness buff should attempt. Again, regardless of your feelings towards CrossFit, if you ever find yourself needing workout inspiration, consider MURPH. Use whatever modifications necessary to complete it; as to even attempt the challenge is a salute to Murphy’s contributions to the military and courageous heart in the face of an impossibly grave situation.

Or, if you find yourself mentally struggling with your next workout, not wanting to begin it, finish it, or give it your all, channel Michael P. Murphy for inspiration. Think of his strength, his bravery, his perseverance—hold on to this and push through, lion-hearted and undeterred by fear, by failure, by ferocious odds.

And, better yet, complete your challenge, your workout or your MURPH committed to both physical fortitude, mental endurance and, equally as important, an unfaltering positive attitude. Be as Murphy was: a person of not just exceptional courage, but of staunch character, who, regardless of his severe wounds, slipping livelihood and dismal condition, finished off his radio call for help to the base with an earnest, “Thank you.”

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