Every Memorial Day, CrossFit boxes around the U.S. do a Hero Workout called “Murph.” Hero WODs are benchmark workouts that are named after fallen soldiers and tend to be extra grueling, both mentally and physically. “Murph” is named after Navy Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy, of Patchogue, N.Y., who was killed in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005, at 29 years old.
Murph consists of a 1-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, and 300 squats, then another 1-mile-run, all completed while wearing a twenty-pound weight vest. Lieutenant Murphy was reportedly an avid CrossFitter and this was one of his favorite workouts. When we do Murph, we honor Lieutenant Murphy and all the others that have given their lives for our freedom.
Michael P. Murphy was born May 7th, 1976 in Smithtown, Long Island, N.Y. Murphy was nicknamed “The Protector” at a young age, after being suspended from elementary school for fighting with bullies who were picking on a special-needs student, according to his father. Murphy reportedly believed there are “bullies in the world and people who’re oppressed in the world. And he said, ‘Sometimes they have to be taken care of.’”
Murphy graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 1998, with degrees in political science and philosophy. He was accepted to multiple law schools, but decided instead to join the Navy SEALs, the Navy’s elite special operations force. In 2001 Murphy joined SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team ONE (SDVT-1), based in Pearl Harbor, and in 2005 was assigned as officer in charge of their Alpha Platoon, which was deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
On the night of June 27, 2005, Murphy led a four-man SEAL team, as a part of “Operation Red Wings,” on a reconnaissance mission in the mountains of northeastern Afghanistan, looking for an insurgent Taliban commander. Their mission was compromised the next morning when they were spotted by local goat herders. The four SEAL team members discussed what to do with these goat herders: if they were Taliban sympathizers and they were released, they could alert the Taliban of the team’s position. Killing the goat herders might ensure the team’s safety, but Murphy was convinced they should let them go. His father later said, “It was exactly the right decision and what Michael had to do. I’m looking at it from Michael’s perspective, that these were clearly civilians. One of them was 14 years old, which was about the age of his brother. Michael knew the rules of engagement and the risks associated with it.” The team decided to release them.
About an hour after letting the goat herders go, a large Taliban force surrounded the SEAL team and opened fire on them, forcing them to scramble down the side of the mountain and into a ravine. The men fought back and killed several of the attackers, but each of them sustained injuries, made all the worse by bounding down the steep mountainside. The firefight went on for nearly two hours. The team tried in vain to obtain contact with headquarters, but their radio wouldn’t work and they couldn’t get a signal on their satellite phone, due to the terrain. Murphy, who had already been shot in the abdomen early in the fight, decided to take matters into his own hands to save the team. He stepped into the open, where he could get a better position to call for help. He was surrounded by gunfire, and when one of the bullets hit him he dropped the phone, but reportedly picked it up again to say, “Roger that, thank you.” After his call, Murphy and his men kept fighting. By the end of the firefight, Murphy and two of the others were dead. To add to the tragedy, 16 of the men sent to rescue the SEAL team were shot down in their helicopter and killed.
Marcus Luttrell, the only survivor of Murphy’s team, was rescued after days of wandering the mountainside and being protected by the people of an Afghan village. He wrote a book about his experience, Lone Survivor, which was made into a movie in 2013, starring Mark Wahlberg.
Up to that time, this was the largest single-day loss in naval special warfare history. All three of Murphy’s men were awarded the Navy Cross for “undaunted courage,” and Murphy was posthumously awarded the U.S. Military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions in risking his life to save his team. Their team is the most decorated team in Navy SEAL history.
Seven weeks after the battle, on August 18, 2005, the CrossFit main site posted the “Murph” Hero WOD online as the workout of the day. The post reads as follows:
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.
Partition the pull-ups, push-ups, and squats as needed. Start and finish with a mile run. If you've got a twenty pound vest or body armor, wear it.
Starting in 2010, Murph has been programmed on CrossFit’s main site every Memorial Day, and this workout has become one of the most heartfelt traditions in CrossFit history. Athletes in the CrossFit Games completed Murph in both 2015 and 2016, and if you need some athletic inspiration (or to see Kara Webb and Annie Thorisdottir suffer from heatstroke), watch the videos on YouTube! (Links below.)
As we tackle this workout on Monday, remember the legacy of Michael Murphy and the men and women who have given their lives for our freedom. When the pain starts to set in, remember that you are doing this for something bigger than a score on the whiteboard. Cheer your fellow athletes on, and look out for each other. Let’s honor our heroes.
-Coach Sonja Rootvik
Aspen CrossFit. “The Story Behind ‘Murph.’” Aspen CrossFit Blog, 30 May 2016. (Online) Available from: http://www.aspencrossfit.com/the-story-behind-murph/. (Accessed May 2019.)
CrossFit.com. “Workout of the Day, Thursday 050818.”CrossFit.com, 18 August 2005. (Online) Available from: https://www.crossfit.com/workout/2005/08/18#/comments. (Accessed May 2019.)
The CrossFit Games. “2015 CrossFit Games Individual Murph” (Video). CrossFit YouTube. Streamed live 24 July 2015. (Online). Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbGPDK8r5Kg (Accessed May 2019.)
The CrossFit Games. “2016 CrossFit Games Individual Murph” (Video). CrossFit YouTube. Streamed live 22 July 2016. (Online). Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6RP73WMbmA (Accessed May 2019.)
B. Kissam. “Murph WOD: The Most Challenging Tradition in CrossFit.”Athletic Muscle. (Online) Available from: https://athleticmuscle.net/murph-wod/. (Accessed May 2019.)
Simon. “Hero Workouts Murph and Nate – The Stories of the Men that Inspired the WODs.” BoxRox.com, 2017. (Online) Available from: https://www.boxrox.com/hero-workouts-murph-and-nate-the-men-behind-the-workouts/. (Accessed May 2019.)
Wikipedia. “Operation Red Wings.” Wikipedia.com, last edited on 12 April 2019. (Online) Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Red_Wings. (Accessed May 2019.)
WodWell.com. “’Murph’ CrossFit Hero WOD.” WodWell.com.(Online) Available from: https://wodwell.com/wod/murph/. (Accessed May 2019.)