the spaz of fitness has arrived

Heroes Exist

In WOD on April 28, 2012 at 4:39 pm

In memory of Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, 29, of Patchogue, N.Y., who was killed in Afghanistan June 28th, 2005.
This workout was one of Mike's favorites and he'd named it "Body Armor". From here on it will be referred to as "Murph" in honor of the focused warrior and great American who wanted nothing more in life than to serve this great country and the beautiful people who make it what it is.

It is late April, but the temperature dwindles below 40 degrees. An unlikely band of students, professionals, veterans, and retirees have crowded into a CrossFit box in State College, PA. They bend back over foam rollers, nudge lacrosse balls into joints and knotted muscle, and wait for the cue. I am among them. At 11:30, my designated heat will begin– wave two of “The Murph”– an annual tributary WOD conducted to raise money for the Wounded Warrior project, in honor of Lt. Michael Murphy.


1 mile run

100 pull-ups

200 push-ups

300 air squats

1 mile run.

Athletes can divide the middle portion into any configuration (typically, 20 rounds of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 15 squats), but the workout must begin and end with a mile run. The real warriors do it with a weight vest.

I’m very fond of Murph. The first time our box programmed the workout, we did it as a partner WOD. Teams had to carry a medicine ball for the mile run, passing it from partner to partner as each individual wearied. Partner WODs are just incredible for motivation. Try running beside someone clutching 16 lbs to her chest and I dare you to slow down. And when she passes you that ball– this unwieldy, sticky burden that you balance against your hip, your stomach, your shoulder, though it won’t fit anywhere– you pound forward step by step because she tells you that you can, because you’ve just watched her carry it for the last half-mile without complaint, and now it’s your turn.

Last summer, after we finished the WOD, when we were all safely inside the box and stretching, I managed my first-ever kipping pull-up. I was tired enough that I stopped overthinking it, and the adrenaline was still pumping so that, when I jumped up to the bar, I strung several effortlessly together despite months of flailing to failure.

Today, I was fortunate enough to have a buddy again. I’m glad I chose to do it as a partner WOD– 1) because I enjoy the camaraderie, and 2) because I’m hoping to be relatively fresh for my squat and bench day tomorrow. Also, Scotchy makes for good WOD company (and has also provided me with a larger supply of whiskey than a stressed-out grad student should ever have access to…)

Though I’ve heard it several times before, I was still moved when one of the veterans read aloud Michael Murphy’s citation before the WOD:

While leading a mission to locate a high-level anti-coalition militia leader, Lieutenant Murphy demonstrated extraordinary heroism in the face of grave danger in the vicinity of Asadabad, Konar Province, Afghanistan. On 28 June 2005, operating in an extremely rugged enemy-controlled area, Lieutenant Murphy’s team was discovered by anti-coalition militia sympathizers, who revealed their position to Taliban fighters. As a result, between 30 and 40 enemy fighters besieged his four member team. Demonstrating exceptional resolve, Lieutenant Murphy valiantly led his men in engaging the large enemy force. The ensuing fierce firefight resulted in numerous enemy casualties, as well as the wounding of all four members of the team. Ignoring his own wounds and demonstrating exceptional composure, Lieutenant Murphy continued to lead and encourage his men. When the primary communicator fell mortally wounded, Lieutenant Murphy repeatedly attempted to call for assistance for his beleaguered teammates. Realizing the impossibility of communicating in the extreme terrain, and in the face of almost certain death, he fought his way into open terrain to gain a better position to transmit a call. This deliberate, heroic act deprived him of cover, exposing him to direct enemy fire. Finally achieving contact with his headquarters, Lieutenant Murphy maintained his exposed position while he provided his location and requested immediate support for his team. In his final act of bravery, he continued to engage the enemy until he was mortally wounded, gallantly giving his life for his country and for the cause of freedom.

This morning’s tribute was a small, humbling reminder that real heroes do exist. We are surrounded by and defended by so many acts of courage unseen– large and small. The small comforts we have– the stolen moments with friends and family, warm meals and warm blankets– are products of generations of hard work and sacrifice. I think it’s a healthy practice to remember this once a while, in our own private ways. Some do it through prayer, some through meditation, some with a couple miles of screaming muscles and sore limbs.

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