Catching Up With Grayson Murphy

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“Yeah, it’s eggs. A vegetable-omelet thing,” Grayson Murphy said of the background noise. “We don’t eat out too much, and I do like to cook. I’ve got a few family recipes that hold more value versus something new. And I’m celiac so I don’t eat gluten. I’ll do meatless days, just for environmental reasons.” Murphy politely lets the eggs sit for the next 30 minutes while we chatted.

She’d just corrected me, explaining that she’s been living in Montana, and not Utah as she previously did, since June of 2020. “It’s great, a gorgeous area. Winter was pretty rough, it does get pretty cold, but it’s not windy, we’re in a valley,” she said of the geography. “The summer’s good, yeah I carry bear spray. I’ve gotten used to it.” Murphy, age 25, followed her boyfriend to Montana as he pursues a professional Nordic ski career.

Murphy won the 2019 World Mountain Running Championships and says she’s going back. This year’s race will be in Thailand in November 2021 and Murphy has an automatic entry. She’s considering the potential for a double too, with the option to compete in the weekend’s vertical-kilometer race. Before any of that though, Murphy’s eyeing a full steeplechase season. “I don’t see why not,” she says matter-of-factly about matching her 9:46 personal record. The mark was set during her senior year of college at the University of Utah. “I just tied my 5,000-meter PR,” she beamed, as evidence of her fitness. She didn’t share the time and only reveals the 15:44 finish when I ask.

2019 World Mountain Running Championships women’s podium

The 2019 World Mountain Running Championships women’s podium (l-to-r): 3. Phillipa Williams, 1. Grayson Murphy, and 2. Elise Poncet. Photo: World Mountain Running Association

Murphy plans to open her track campaign at the Drake Relays in Iowa in late April, but leading into it, she ran a 1:13:23 half marathon in Mississippi. She finished second to training partner Makena Morley. And then on March 20, 2021, she was sixth at Florida’s Gate River Run 15k. It was the USATF championships for the distance. “Everything’s packed into May, and then the Olympic Trials in June,” Murphy said of the schedule ahead. The 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Olympic Trials is expected to be a 24-woman field with two heats, and a 9:50 qualifying standard. Murphy hasn’t yet started steeplechase-specific workouts, explaining that she’s historically been good on the barriers and doesn’t want to risk an injury this early. The steeplechase includes 28 barriers and seven water jumps.

Grayson Murphy trail running

All photos courtesy of Grayson Murphy unless otherwise noted.

After roads at the start of the calendar year, and track in the middle of the year, Murphy does eye a trail season too. She’s in for Switzerland’s Thyon-Dixence and Sierre-Zinal races in August 2021, her first European races. “Zegama Marathon [in Spain in June] was too early. I’m not looking to open in trail running that soon,” she said of another prized international contest. I press on the road versus track versus trail dynamic, and Murphy says that for her they’re complementary. “Track, especially steeplechase, I think helps, and I’m not doing ultramarathons. I think that would be less complementary. I’m doing shorter trail distances.” She was second at the Bridger Ridge Run 20-mile race in 2019, her longest trail race to date, and what she called her most challenging.

Grayson Murphy in the mountains

Simultaneous to professional running, Murphy’s pursuing a master’s degree in sustainable natural resources online. She’s two quarters in and expects to finish the program in spring 2022. “My undergraduate degree was in civil engineering with a focus on environmental, so this is a good next step. I’m interested in green infrastructure, green-space planning,” Murphy said. And she’s still selling her popular combination training journal/calendar planner too. “Five hundred, then 1,200, then 2,000,” Murphy said of the three-year sales numbers. “It was basically a full-time job for two months shipping this year. It started just as a fun project, but so many people would ask, ‘Where do I get it?'” Murphy’s improved the product with the addition of habit trackers and mental-health notes, and hopes to seek out a publisher for the 2022 product. She expects to start its design in June 2021.

Murphy’s spoken and written about mental-health awareness previously and reflects on 2020. “It was tough for everyone. My job—I didn’t have a job for a year basically with no races. I had to find new reasons to keep running, to reconsider my priorities and find my why.”

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Grayson Murphy trail racing

Justin Mock

is a family man, finance man, and former competitive runner. He gave his 20s to running, and ran as fast as 2:29 for the marathon and finished as high as fourth at the Pikes Peak Marathon. His running is now most happy with his two dogs on the trails and peaks near his home west of Denver.