Our positive running story this time features Grayson Murphy, a pro runner for Saucony from UT, who currently lives and trains in Bozeman, Montana. She found her passion for the sport of running in 2014, and has had numerous successes in both XC and road events. In 2019, Grayson found trail running, became US Mountain Running Champion at her first attempt, and then went on to become World Mountain Running Champion the same year. Grayson has also become known for her excellent training log & planner, and her insightful features at her Racin-Grayson website. I recently had the chance to catch up with Grayson, and here is the result of our interview:
Can you share your brief running history to date?
I started running at 19 as a sophomore in college, after playing soccer my first year of college as well as growing up. After two years at Santa Clara University where I was lucky enough to have amazing teammates and coaches I transferred to the University of Utah to pursue running at a higher level and obtain my civil engineering degree. I graduated from the University of Utah in 2018 with my engineering degree and as a 5x All-American and 3x school record holder. After placing 7th in the steeplechase at the 2018 USATF Outdoor Championships, I signed my first professional contract with Northern Arizona Elite/Hoka One One. I spent one year with NAZ Elite before ultimately deciding that it was not the right fit for me and I moved back home to continue to pursue professional running and one that included trail and mountain running as well. One day after my birthday, June 29th, of 2019 I ran my first trail race at the Cirque-Series Brighton event in Utah and I was hooked! I continued to run trails through the fall of that year which led me to win my first National Mountain Running and first World Mountain Running titles! I also won the XTERRA Trail Running Championships of that year. While 2020 has been a down year for obvious reasons, I have still managed to PR in the 3k (9:10 with altitude conversion) and the half marathon, both of which I am very proud to be closing out the year with!
What are the top three things you enjoy most about running, and why?
1) The sense of adventure.
2) The social/community aspect.
3) The movement.
What have been your three favorite races that you have run so far, and what was it about these races that made them special for you?
1) XTERRA Trail Run World Champs – While I did win this race, my favorite part was that I got to spend the week leading up to the race in Hawaii with my sister!
2) NCAA’s XC Champs 2018 – My senior year, this race felt like a validation of all that I had worked towards and I couldn’t have been more proud to represent my school and my coach’s hard work with the highest individual finish in school history.
3) NACAC 2019 XC Champs – Held in Tobago, this course and trip was amazing. It was the first time I qualified and ran for Team USA and I cannot even begin to put into words what it feels like to put on that singlet with ‘USA’ across your chest. It is a very prideful and surreal moment.
I loved your feature on how the impact of COVID on your running and racing year helped you develop a new superpower? Can you share more about this new power and how it came to be?
My new superpower that I have developed this year is learning how to run alone. I think that there is definitely a great amount of advantage and benefit that people can get from working with teammates, but we often overlook how valuable it is to be able to hold ourselves accountable and responsible. Learning how to lean on myself for support and being able to rely on myself during solo workouts and runs has been really valuable. There are plenty of times in races when we might find ourselves alone in “no-man’s-land” and having the ability to push ourselves and show up for ourselves when no one is watching is important.
What wisdoms would you share with a younger version of yourself about being a woman runner, and what do you love about being a woman runner at your age right now?
Well, I didn’t start running until 6 years ago so a younger version of me would have no interest in being a runner (in high school I thought running was the worst and always pitied the cross country team!). But I think if I could tell my 6-years younger self something, it would be to focus on myself and not worry about what everyone else is doing and not get caught up in comparison. Right now, I love being part of what feels like a women’s distance running revolution in the US! I also think it’s a pivotal time for getting more women interested and empowered in trail running and its really fun and special to be on the frontlines of that movement.
How do you like to relax when you’re not running? What’s your favorite thing to do that connects you with another side of being Grayson?
To relax, I very much enjoy reading and cooking. My mom has worked as a chef and my family has strong traditions surrounding food and meals, so cooking for me is a way to get back to feeling at home. I love to share meals with people and the art that is involved in creating food. I also see myself as an athlete, not just a runner, so being outside and doing lots of sports and activities is something that helps me connect with another side of who I am. Anything in nature or outdoors makes me feel immediately less anxious and more at peace so even if it’s camping or exploring a new place, I love it!
You ran your first trail race in 2019 (is that right?) and said that you had never felt so deeply connected to nature during a race. This seems to be a common thread for runners starting their adventures on trails. What would you say to someone that is already running and is thinking of giving trails a try?
Yes! My first trail race was in 2019. To someone who is thinking of giving trail running a try, I would say go for it! Right now! Don’t feel like you have to wait until you have all the perfect gear or are a trail running pro. If you can find a shorter mountain race to try out, its a great chance to try something new and NEVER forget to enjoy the views at the top. That’s the best part of trail running!
You are a Saucony athlete and have had great success in the fabulous new Switchback 2 trail shoe. Did you have the opportunity to provide any feedback on the design for the shoe, and will there be a Racin-Grayson version of the shoe?
Unfortunately this shoe was already on the market by the time that I joined Saucony, but I would be honored if there was an opportunity in the future to help create a new version! I do get to provide feedback on prototypes of things now and that is super fun.
If we could share a message on your behalf to the World, what would you wish to say?
Don’t be afraid to bet on yourself and try something new. Even if people think you might be crazy or it isn’t a typical path, do it anyway. You never know what success you might find that you never knew was there. Also, be kind.
Could you share one thing that is unique about Grayson that no one would know by looking at you?
I have a twin sister who looks just like me! She is not a runner, but she is the most athletic person I know and played basketball in college. She is also my best friend.
What are your running and life goals for 2021 and beyond?
Running and life goals are both pretty broad. I hope to be able to find success in both but my definitions of success will continue to evolve and change. With running in particular, I hope to leave a lasting mark on the running community in a meaningful way other than being just a runner or someone known for their fast times. No doubt I want to run fast as well, but I want my contribution to the community to be more than that as well. In life, I hope to be able to live life to the fullest and best version of myself and to have the opportunity to experience and appreciate all that the world has to offer.
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