Growing up as a twin, Grayson Murphy developed her competitive fire. Their parents had Grayson and Maddy choose their sports to they wouldn’t be so “hyper competitive” against one another.
For Maddy, it was basketball. Grayson picked soccer, which she played through her freshman year of college, then “was just kind of over it.” After transferring to Santa Clara University in 2014, she decided to walk onto the track and cross-country teams.
“I still wanted friends, but I wasn't really into the social life of being in a sorority so I looked at sports as another option,” says Murphy, who only played soccer in high school. “Then, feasibly running was the only sport I could walk onto with no experience at the collegiate level. That narrowed it down for me a little bit.”
To say it worked out well for her is an understatement.
At Santa Clara, Murphy set school records in the 1,500-meter and 3,000-meter Steeplechase events. After transferring to the University of Utah for her final two years, Murphy graduated in 2018 as a five-time All American. Her accolades at Utah include finishing eighth at the 2017 NCAA Cross Country Championships; taking 10th and 15th at the NCAA Indoor Championships in the 5,000 meters; and placing fifth and sixth in the Steeplechase at the NCAA Championships.
Her success continued as a pro athlete.
Last September, Murphy won her first USATF national title as the 2019 U.S. Mountain Running Champion. She followed that up with world titles at the 2019 World Mountain Running Championships and the XTERRA Trail Run World Championships.
Even though she gained notoriety as a trail and mountain runner, she still likes the challenges of road racing too.
“I like pushing myself and seeing what I can do in a lot of different ways,” she says. “I don't like feeling like I'm stuck in a box or only a track runner, or only a mountain runner. I like to see what translates and what doesn't and just experiment. The races are all pretty fun. They have their own unique parts about them so it's kind of FOMO — Fear Of Missing Out. I don't want to miss out on a really cool race so that's why I've been trying to do a lot of different things.”
Murphy would like to go back to the World Mountain Running Championships in mid-November. But any real race planning is on hold due to the coronavirus. Instead, she is seeking out different challenges.
Living in Salt Lake City, she is able to continue her training while following social distancing guidelines. Still, the break from racing is a welcome reprieve after her strong finish to 2019.
“It's been nice not having the pressure,” she says. “Less is more for me with races. I don't like to over race, so it has been nice to have a big period where I don't have any pressure to even enter a race because sometimes that does get in the way. Last year was a really big year for me. It's a blessing in disguise that I've had this downtime now to process everything and not feel like I need to rush back into racing because I did end last year on a high note results wise. It's been nice to have this downtime to relax and just enjoy running for what it is.”
Setting a Fastest Known Time
At the same time, she is discovering and conquering new challenges.
Recently, she set a Fastest Known Time (FKT) on Grandeur Peak. In congratulating her on the Team SWAP Facebook page, Coach David Roche wrote, among other things, "It's such a stunningly strong run. It's insane. Grayson is just a wonderful person. One of the best athletes in human history. Seriously."
Roche, who is also my coach, began working with Murphy at the start of 2020.
“It's been really cool to have someone so invested in me,” she says. “He’s been really good about helping me ease back from overtraining and making sure to take things slow and not push things. We're getting to a really healthy spot that's super sustainable. It will pay dividends for many years to come.”
The idea for the FKT actually came from Roche.
Murphy ran Salt Lake City’s Millcreek Canyon ascent, which is 3.3 miles to the top with 2,500 feet of ascent, in just over 42 minutes.
“It's not crazy, but it is a climb where you can definitely run the whole thing,” she says. “It was pretty fun. We just wanted a bigger stressor effort as a workout before we switched gears to more track and road stuff. It wasn't going to be a huge hours-long workout that was going to wreck me for days and days. We figured it was a perfect little ascent to go for.”
What they did not anticipate were the obstacles along the way to the top on the single-track trail. Murphy estimates that she passed 100 people on the climb.
“It was insane. I've never seen that many people in the canyon before or on that trail before,” she says. “The trail's really pretty, so pretty that there's so many people out now because no one has anything else to do. That was a little annoying trying to get all the people to move going up, but that was really fun. The views at the top are pretty cool. It was worth it.”
‘Maybe you fail spectacularly’
With Roche guiding her running career, Murphy is plotting out some goals — but staying present while the world deals with the pandemic. High on her bucket list is to compete at the Olympic Trials on the track. She would also like to do a road marathon, then compete in the Olympic Trials for the marathon and later on try an ultra.
For now, she is focusing on her big personal goal for 2020, reducing her carbon footprint. She is seeking to do less driving (made earlier by the coronavirus), eliminate the use of plastic bags and stop using disposable coffee cups.
Murphy had also been plant-based for environmental reasons. However, after her iron levels dropped, she adjusted her diet.
“We're trying to get those back up and figure out a more sustainable way to work in less animal products but still have healthy blood levels. Aside from being just plant-based, everything else has gone really well. It's easy not to drive right now because there's nowhere to go, so that helps.”
Roche’s influence is seen not just in her performance but in her outlook. In a post on her website from a month ago, she writes about how consistency is not always the key. Roche implores his athletes to shoot their shot.
“I wasn't trying to knock on consistent training as much as the shooting your shot bit where you want to try and go for things,” she explains. “Maybe you fail spectacularly, but at least you tried and sometimes it will work out, as opposed to just always being consistently fifth place where you're pretty good but you're never going to really win, but you won't lose either. And you're not going to learn as much. David definitely had some influence in that thinking.”
Name: Grayson Murphy
Hometown: Salt Lake City, Utah
Number of years running: 5.5
How many miles a week do you typically run: 70-75 (right now, but this changes)
Point of pride: Winning the World Mountain Running Championships!
Favorite race distance: All of them! I like to mix things up and not get stuck in one box
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: Oatmeal and peanut butter
Favorite piece of gear: My Saucony shoes! I literally couldn't do anything without them.
Favorite or inspirational song to run to: No music! I don't run with music, I like to be able to talk to who I'm running with and hear the animals and nature around me.
Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: Saying "I feel good" out loud to make myself believe I feel good even when I may not.
Where can other runners connect or follow you:
• Website: www.racin-grayson.com
• Instagram and Twitter: @racin__grayson