Interview by Jenny DeSouchet
When a high school surfer from Hawaii decides to move to Boulder and train with the nation’s best XC team, spectacular things happen. Pierce Murphy, a runner that joined the CU team five years ago as a “recruited walk-on”, has now earned eight All-American honors and has been called “the most successful of all of those blue-collar guys” by CU coach, Mark Wetmore (The Denver Post). This is a large compliment; especially considering the history of “blue collar” Olympians and national champions Wetmore has coached in his time at CU (‘blue collar’ referring to runners that weren’t the most sought after recruits from high school, but became successful in college).
Pierce’s five-year career at CU has been one of consistent improvement and what he modestly calls, “surprising” success. In fact, his third place finish at the 2015 NCAA Cross Country Championships is CU’s best placing since 2003. So what’s next for the surfer-gone-All-American runner? And how much homemade kombucha does he actually drink on a daily basis to stay fast? He shared most, not all, of his secrets with us.
Congrats on an awesome final year at CU. How do you feel about being done with your last race?
I feel good with being done with my last race. I have seen people in the past finish their last race and they are sad it was there last race. A couple of weeks before all the way to a day before nationals I thought I would have the same feelings. I did not have that feeling, I was actually happy to be done. I came into the last race just wanting to make it fun and to race my hardest and that’s what I did. I have no regrets and running has given me more than I could ask for.
How do you feel about becoming the 4th best male in the NCAA in the 10k?
Being 4th in the 10K is awesome. I finished 5th last year and wanted to place higher this year and that’s what I did. I did not know exactly what I was ranked nationally in the 10K, all I knew was that I wanted to have a better race than last year.
Were you at all surprised by the results this year or did you know coming in that you’d be one of the top contenders at NCAA’s in both track and cross country?
I was surprised for sure with the results this year. I had great summer training and knew I was fitter than the year before. I also was having great races during cross country leading up to nationals and was hoping to finish top 10 or at least top 15, so the third place finish was a big surprise. That third place gave me confidence for the rest of the year’s racing and it gave me the confidence to tell myself that I would finish as one of the top contenders in indoors and outdoors. I kept thinking and telling myself that I would place high in indoor nationals and outdoor nationals and it worked.
What are the most important things you do daily to stay healthy?
The most important things I do daily to stay healthy are stretch for a long time after my runs and a little before, make sure I am staying well hydrated from the time I wake up till I go back to sleep, making sure my meals have a good ratio of micro and macro nutrients so I can recover, sleeping 9 hours a night, and last but not least is drinking a glass of kombucha every day. I brew my own at home so I can have as much as I want. All of this is so that I can maximize my body’s recovery in between my daily training runs.
How has your running progressed at CU since you came in as a freshman?
Coming to CU as a freshman compared to now is a lot different. I came to CU as a recruited walk on with slow PRs. The slowest in my freshman class, I think a girl had a better 5K PR than me actually. I have progressed a lot more than I thought I would. My senior (5th) year, I was doing more than twice the amount of miles that I ran in high school. By that time, my PR’s were a lot better and I went from the slowest to one of the fastest on the team. It is not something I expected at all and every year my race times surprised me.
What are the biggest motivating factors that allowed you to keep running and training for 5 years at CU?
The biggest motivation factors I had were that I kept getting faster in races and enjoyed competing with fast runners. Also it was great racing with teammates and we are able to push each other to run faster.
How does running differ in Colorado to running in Hawaii? And how does daily living differ?
Training in Colorado and Hawaii are a lot different. Hawaii is hot and humid and Colorado is hot and dry (in the summer). The humidity is hard to run in and makes it feel like I am running at altitude so when I come back to Colorado I do not feel the altitude that much at all. I have to train right away in the morning in Hawaii before the sun rises before it’s so hot and humid. Also I have to run before I go surf. If I run after I go surfing, I am usually really tired and don’t want to run.
So running in Hawaii makes me wake up before the sun is up and train. Hawaii has a lot training surfaces such as roads, grass, dirt roads, trails, and also beaches that are all very close to each other. Training in Colorado is nice because I always have sometime to run with.
Daily life is different because in Hawaii I run in the early morning then go to the beach all day. In the end of the day I am much more worn out than when I train in Colorado. When I train in Colorado it is much more businesslike and I focus my day around my run or runs.
Do you plan to continue running competitively after college?
Yes I do plan on running competitively after college. I do not know any details yet but it’s something I would like to do.