Memorial Day is just over a couple weeks away (May 25th if you’ve forgotten), and whether you’re new to CrossFit or not, you’ve probably heard about Murph at some point.
In case you’re unfamiliar, “Murph” is a classic CrossFit workout known as a Hero WOD. Hero WOD’s are made by CrossFit to honor the men and women that have fallen in the line of duty. This one is specifically to honor Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, who was killed in action in Afghanistan on June 28th, 2005.
1 mile Run
300 Air Squats
1 mile Run
*With a 20 lb Vest or Body Armor
This workout itself was Michael’s favorite workout to do, which at the time referred to it as “Body Armor”, hence the 20 lb vest or body armor as part of the workout prescription. So, every year, CrossFitters synonymously around the world pay special tribute to Lieutenant Murphy by joining together and suffering through this workout.
Why Do We Do Murph?
Hero WOD’s are not uncommon in the CrossFit community. Besides the story of an amazing human being who gave his courage and ultimate sacrifice for his team and country (which we’re about to get to), it also gives us a chance to pay tribute to all the other Hero WOD’s such as J.T., Michael, Randy, and Nate. CrossFit still makes new Hero workouts to this day.
“These men were fathers, husbands and sons. They were brothers to their fellow SEALs. They were also CrossFitters. In their actions, these men embodied the values and spirit of true heroes, and to immortalize their courage, bravery and self-sacrifice, the CrossFit Hero workouts were created.”
–Russel Berger, CrossFit
So what made Lieutenant Murphy’s story so impactful? Here’s an excerpt about what went down in Afghanistan in June 2005:
On June 28, 2005, Lt. Murphy was the officer-in-charge of a four-man SEAL element in support of Operation Red Wing tasked with finding key anti-coalition militia commander near Asadabad, Afghanistan. Shortly after inserting into the objective area, the SEALs were spotted by three goat herders who were initially detained and then released. It is believed the goat herders immediately reported the SEALs’ presence to Taliban fighters.
A fierce gun battle ensued on the steep face of the mountain between the SEALs and a much larger enemy force. Despite the intensity of the firefight and suffering grave gunshot wounds himself, Murphy is credited with risking his own life to save the lives of his teammates. Murphy, intent on making contact with headquarters, but realizing this would be impossible in the extreme terrain where they were fighting, unhesitatingly and with complete disregard for his own life moved into the open, where he could gain a better position to transmit a call to get help for his men.
Moving away from the protective mountain rocks, he knowingly exposed himself to increased enemy gunfire. This deliberate and heroic act deprived him of cover and made him a target for the enemy. While continuing to be fired upon, Murphy made contact with the SOF Quick Reaction Force at Bagram Air Base and requested assistance. He calmly provided his unit’s location and the size of the enemy force while requesting immediate support for his team. At one point, he was shot in the back causing him to drop the transmitter. Murphy picked it back up, completed the call and continued firing at the enemy who was closing in. Severely wounded, Lt. Murphy returned to his cover position with his men and continued the battle.
As a result of Murphy’s call, an MH-47 Chinook helicopter, with eight additional SEALs and eight Army Night Stalkers aboard, was sent in as part of the QRF to extract the four embattled SEALs. As the Chinook drew nearer to the fight, a rocket-propelled grenade hit the helicopter, causing it to crash and killing all 16 men aboard.
On the ground and nearly out of ammunition, the four SEALs, continued to fight. By the end of a two-hour gunfight that careened through the hills and over cliffs, Murphy, Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class (SEAL) Danny Dietz and Sonar Technician 2nd Class (SEAL) Matthew Axelson had fallen. An estimated 35 Taliban were also dead. The fourth SEAL, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SEAL) Marcus Luttrell, was blasted over a ridge by a rocket-propelled grenade and knocked unconscious. Though severely wounded, the fourth SEAL and sole survivor, Luttrell, was able to evade the enemy for nearly a day; after which local nationals came to his aide, carrying him to a nearby village where they kept him for three more days. Luttrell was rescued by U.S. Forces on July 2, 2005.
By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit and inspirational devotion to his men in the face of certain death, Lt. Murphy was able to relay the position of his unit, an act that ultimately led to the rescue of Luttrell and the recovery of the remains of the three who were killed in the battle.
—Murph Foundation “Biography”
Crazy story right? Now it’s all starting to make a little more sense on why CrossFitters make a big deal out of Memorial Day and Murph. It’s the least we can do to honor the courage and selfless sacrifice that was made that day.
How Difficult Is Murph?
On paper, it might not look TOO bad. It might take most people awhile to finish, but it can slowly be chipped away at compared to a workout with ridiculously heavy weights, complicated skill required movements, etc. In fact, we did a post not too long ago about the most difficult Hero workouts which you can see here. “Murph” is the 2nd most popular Hero workout on BTWB, second to “DT”.
First, there’s two methods of finishing Murph. While you have to start and finish with a 1 mile run, the 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, and 300 air squats can either be done in order, or partitioned. The most common strategy is to partition the reps into 20 rounds of “Cindy” or 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 15 air squats. If you’re really trying to maximize your time and don’t think you can do 20 rounds of 10 push-ups unbroken, you can split the push-ups around the air squats. So you would do 20 rounds of: 5 pull-ups, 5 push-ups, 15 air squats, 5 push-ups. Performing “Murph” in the un-partitioned manner is the more difficult of the strategies, as the push-ups will be the part that will have lots of rest in between sets. The partitioned way lets you chip away at the other movements while your push-ups take a break.
The other variation about Murph is that it’s performed either with a weight vest, or without. The prescription hints to use one if you have one, but, if you don’t have one, then you don’t have a choice. There’s a ton of variation in completion time between the two options. Below is roughly the average time of completion without a weight vest. The average time being around 48 minutes for Men and 52 minutes for Women.
Now, add a weight vest, and this workout is a whole different beast. Take a look at the 2016 CrossFit Games athletes. They literally had to do Murph in weight vests, and needless to say, it did not look easy.
Murph’s History in CrossFit
Murph was first programmed on CrossFit’s Main Site on August 18th, 2005. It’s hard to say when exactly it became a tradition for gyms to program Murph on Memorial Day. In 2007, Josh Appel, an Air Force pararescue jumper who led the team that jumped to rescue Lt. Murphy’s team, brought the idea to his gym, Albany CrossFit, and the rest of the CrossFit community followed suit. 10 years later it’s an honored tradition for gyms to close on Memorial Day, running only Murph as their workout, often followed by a barbecue or other community bonding event.
In 2015, Murph made the leap from gym tradition to a CrossFit Games event and made history once again. Dave Castro programmed the grueling workout (UNPARTITIONED) to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Games, and it happened to fall during midday in the California heat. 2015 Murph was notable on many levels, but none more than the impact it had on the competitors- Annie Thorisdottir and Kara Webb were both visibly beaten by the workout, with Annie having to withdraw from competition, and Kara Webb passing out directly after the event and receiving treatment for heatstroke. Sam Briggs won the Women’s side with a time of 39:10, while Björgvin Karl Guðmundsson was the Men’s winner, with a time of 38:36.
Castro programmed Murph AGAIN in 2016 and both vindicated his programming methodology and showed the amazing adaptability and resilience of CrossFit Games athletes. (It also helped that it was held earlier in the day to avoid the glaring midday sun.) The 2nd go around for Murph went off without a hitch with the athletes looking far better prepared and mentally ready for the long haul. Kari Pearce took the top women’s spot with a time of 36:42, while former SEAL Josh Bridges won the men’s side with a time of 34:38.
Not only will Lieutenant Murphy’s actions live eternally in the CrossFit community, but he will live on in society outside of CrossFit as well. In 2007, Michael’s parents, Dan & Maureen, and his brother Michael created the LT Michael P. Murphy Memorial Scholarship Foundation.
“Michael was an avid reader and felt that education was key, in fact his favorite saying was “Education will set you free”. That is why the Murphy Family used their own funds to start the Foundation.
From it’s humbled and honored beginnings of awarding one scholarship a year, the Foundation now awards 17 scholarships. For 2015, these scholarships include a Suffolk Federal Credit Union Scholarship, 4 Scholarships to the USS Michael Murphy DDG112, 2 Patchogue Medford High School Scholarships, 6 Navy LT Michael Murphy Sea Cadet Division Scholarships, 1 Scholarship through Shoreman Wading River School District in memory of Tom Cutinella, 1 Scholarship through Penn State, 1 Scholarship to a Purple Heart Recipient (SSGT Jeremiah Wegner) and sent 10 Penn State NROTC students to attend a 3 day American Veteran’s Conference on Veteran’s Day 2015.”
The Foundation is funded through donations to them and proceeds made from The Murph Challenge fundraiser held every year.
In a more main-stream path, the movie Lone Survivor was released in 2013, which tells the story of Michael Murphy and his men based off the book written by Marcus Luttrell, the lone surviving SEAL from Murphy’s group from that fateful day.
So, if you’ve got no plans that weekend, perhaps you can spend it reading Luttrell’s book, watching Lone Survivor, and then sweatin’ and sufferin’ on Memorial Day with your crew doing “Murph”. Just remember the real reason we acknowledge this day. Not just for some BBQ’s, but for ‘Merica.