Coach Runs 100 Miles Without Stopping

Athletic Director Murphy runs long distances as a hobby

November 27, 2017

For most people, running a 26-mile foot race is out of the question, let alone traveling 100 miles on foot without stopping.

But for Poinciana Athletic Director Matthew Murphy, it’s a lifestyle.

Murphy ran 100 miles last summer in San Diego in what distance runners call ultramarathons. This mammoth race took Murphy 31 hours and 23 minutes to finish.

An ultramarathon is any race with a distance longer than 26.2 miles. (Marathons are 26.2 miles)

And this race wasn’t even his first one. He’s done a total of 12 ultramarathons throughout his life – with two at the 100-mile distance.

These races are only for the most serious distance runner.

Murphy said he enjoys the challenge of ultramarathon running as it helps him deal with other challenges in life in a better way.

Murphy credits ultramarathoning with him being a better father, husband and athletic director.

Living up to its name, the San Diego 100-Mile Endurance Run was set in the mountains in East County where elevations are as high as 6,000 feet, with 26,000 feet of elevation change.

The race was designed with a single trail where runners had to run front to back.

“It is known as a conga line in the ultra community, where you have to wait to pass anyone,” Murphy said. “After a few hours, though, things get spread out and it isn’t an issue.”

The race had 13 stations, which are rendezvous points for runners to rehydrate and eat. Sometimes Murphy struggled to just make it to the next station.

Runners could never complete an ultramarathon alone. Each runner has a half dozen or so people traveling ahead to the next station with extra socks, food, water and other supplies.

Murphy’s crew consisted of his immediate family and friends, including former Poinciana Baseball Coach, Brad Averil.

His children, Lucas, 14, and Sarah, 12, and wife, Karen, played a crucial role in supporting him.

Sarah said she enjoys helping her father.

“I stayed up all night as part of my dad’s crew,” Sarah said. “It’s fun, but I don’t think I’ll carry on the tradition of ultramarathon running when I’m older, since it’s a lot of work.”

Unlike his sister, Lucas plans to follow in his father’s footsteps.

Lucas, who is a cross country runner at Celebration High, already has a race scheduled for December.

Another vital member of his crew was his professional coach, Jason Koop, who trains runners for a living.

Koop trained Murphy six days a week where he focused on nothing, but running and resting.

Ultramarathoning makes me a better father, husband and athletic director.”

— Athletic Director Matthew Murphy

“Koop had me running 50-70 miles a week,” Murphy said. “Sometimes I trained at home, while other times I went to Clermont since the area has hills, which helped me train for the mountainous terrain of California.”

However, nothing in Florida would prepare him for the rocky mountain terrain of the area known as the “Mountain Empire”.

At the beginning of the race, Murphy’s nerves were at an all-time high for the tough challenge ahead.

After 20 miles in, the intensity of the race began taking a toll on Murphy’s body.

The problem was that Murphy still had 80 more miles to go and he would have to navigate mountain cliffs with nothing but a small light on his forehead.

One wrong move could cause him a tumble.

Murphy said his breaking point came between miles 34 to 44.

At mile 34, as Murphy was passing through a canyon, his body took a turn for the worst.

Trying to get some energy back into his system, Murphy wolfed down a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, only to throw it up afterwards.

In addition to feeling dizzy and nauseous, Murphy’s crew was still many miles away.

“That was the first time in my life when I didn’t think I could take a step forward,” Murphy said.

Pushing past the pain, Murphy persevered.

At nighttime, temperatures dropped from 70 to 40 degrees forcing runners to don jackets. Even with the extra layer, runners were shivering from the cold weather.

After reaching a station around mile 48, Murphy was accompanied by Karen, who paced with him.

A pacer runs alongside the runner through the night hours to help the runner continue.

“I enjoyed pacing with my husband and being a part of his crew,” Karen said. “It makes it more of a family sport.”

After mile 64, Karen switched being Murphy’s pacer with Koop.

With almost 30 miles to go, Murphy started downing Coca Cola to regain energy.

Nearly 20 yards away from the finish line, Murphy was put to the test one last time. Facing a high elevated trail, Murphy decided to run the rest of the way to finish strong.

Once he passed the finish line, Murphy wanted nothing more than to relax as his feet were covered in blisters and his toe nails were pitch black.

And now he’s scoping out his next 100 miler and logging miles all over Osceola County.

For Murphy, the reward is far greater than the pain.

“Ultramarathon running gives you this liberating feeling as you enter a state of Zen,” Murphy said.

Submitted Photo
Poinciana Athletic Director Matt Murphy (in blue) poses with his crew. From left: trainer Jason Koop, son Lucas Murphy, wife Karen Murphy, daughter Sarah Murphy and former Poinciana baseball coach Brad Averil. Murphy’s crew is responsible for traveling ahead to meet Murphy at various pit stops with food and other supplies.

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