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As the world mountain running champion with a track pedigree (she placed 6th in the Steeplechase at the US Olympic trials), Grayson Murphy ignores labels and focuses on the roads, paths, and mountains ahead. But she hasn't always called herself a runner. Read her interview below.
Q: What do you think makes you successful? What made you a good athlete? A: I think maybe tenacity and flexibility. I found more success in being flexible and going with the flow, as opposed to being very strict training or racing. And that's why I do road in track and trail and have found success with that. Even though I think that kind of goes against the grain of common wisdom a lot of especially older coaches would recommend. I think it's being flexible in my needs and wants and in what's going on in the circumstances.
Q: Can you share some of the hardships that were more stressful for you in your evolution as a professional runner? A: I didn't start running until I was 19, so that is not a dream I've had since I was a little girl. That's a pretty new identity for me. A lot of things pre-date my running identity and I'm not going to sacrifice them. I'm going to go home for Christmas. And some runners don't. But I'm going to see my family because they mean more to me than a gold medal ever could. And it was hard being in the kind of system that put pressure on those things because for a while I thought that the only way to be good was, for example, to not go home for Christmas, to run yourself into a pulp and be unhappy and tired all the time. And then I got to a point where I couldn't do it anymore. I definitely asked myself what if I'd never be good again, but then I thought, "I tried. I know what my priorities are. And It's my community, my tribe, my family." And then I started to realize after a while that I was winning. I was way better than before and I realized I don't have to sacrifice all that stuff. I can be happy and have friends and family and not be crazy about running and still be good.
Q: What you just said embodies the Saucony ethos. You can be a professional runner and be considered a runner and things don't have to look the same for someone. All runners have their own method and their own way. We all are anchored by this humanity and multi-dimensionality. A: Yes, it was weird starting running so late and I've been calling myself a soccer player because I played soccer in college and growing up. So then changing and saying, I'm a runner now, I was like, Oh, that's kind of awkward. So now when I say I'm a runner, I see that as kind of my job. But overall, I would say I'm an athlete just because I feel like I like to do other stuff, too. Running is like one of those sports I like to participate in but outside of running, my day is filled with a lot of things that don't have to do with running.
I didn't start running until I was 19. It's a pretty new identity for me.
Q: During a race (or training run) is hitting the summit your favourite part or the descent? A: No one has beat me to a summit yet so I like getting to the top first. But I like the descent because that's the fun part in my head. I work really hard to get to the summit, and the descent is kind of like the prize, which is why I did it. There was the VK race, which was only a race to the top because there was no descent. So it's kind of like the fun part wasn't included in the race for me and that was that a different mental weight. Like it's just going to hurt and then be over - there's no fun descending.
Q: What do you feel when you run? Which sense is most powerful? Sight and color? Hearing and the sounds of your environment? Feeling the air? A: I do notice color. The sounds are just kind of a visceral thing for me because I don't run with music, so I like to listen, especially on trails on the road. It's not as fun, but on the trails. It's kind of fun to listen and see what birds I can hear. They're different everywhere. I like flowers a lot. So when they start to bloom, I think it's fun to kind of see which ones are blooming and learn the names and choose a favourite. Summiting is always cool and you can see views and peaks and just feel like you're on top - as high as you can get on the Earth at that point. That's really neat for me and never gets old. There's always something cool and breathtaking at the top.
It doesn't matter what surface — I just want to run.
Q: Do you feel like you are labeled or identified a lot first as a runner on the outside? A: Yes, and where I get frustrated with labels is people will be like, you're a trail runner. And I'm like, But I got sixth at the Olympic Trials on the track. Or then others will say, you're just a track runner trying to do trail stuff. The trail people call me a roadie sometimes. It doesn't have to matter what surface. I just want to run.
Q: What would you tell someone who says they're not a runner - in a way that discounts them. For example, someone who is interested in mountain racing or going for a run, but they think "Oh, well, I can't do that. I'm not a runner." A: I would say that I wasn't either. I've not always been a runner and you don't have to call yourself one, but it does take just getting out there and trying it and putting one foot in front of the other and experiencing it. I think practice really does make perfect so you can just get out there. It doesn't even matter if you're going "slow". And I would also probably send them a video of me hiking, winning the US Championship races because it's not always running all the time. There's, for me, quite a bit of hiking. So you don't have to be going fast. It's just kind of like moving your body in nature is really where you have to start. ■
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