November 8, 1999
Volume 52, No. 11
Emory's "ironman" Scott Murphy takes trip
Editor's note: Emory junior Caroline Hoit wrote this article before Scott Murphy competed in the Ironman Triathlon, held in Hawaii Oct. 23. Murphy's results appear at the end of this story.
He promised himself he was not going to Hawaii unless he was going to compete. Now, at age 40, Scott Murphy is fulfilling his promise when he goes at the end of October to participate in one of the most physically challenging events there is--the Hawaii Ironman.
Murphy has emerged from relative obscurity to qualify for this premier triathlon competition. In fact, his anonymity in the world of triathletes made itself glaringly obvious when he qualified for the Ironman in a race held in St. Petersburg, Fla., in April of this year, setting a masters division record and finishing fourth overall. The race announcer was dumbfounded as to Murphy's identity and never did announce his name as the age-group winner. Murphy not only finished first in his age group (40-44), but also beat Igor Kogoj--a Slovenian who finished 23rd overall in the 1996 Hawaii Ironman.
Murphy does not mind the lack of attention. He purposely planned to sneak up on people as an unknown.
"Hopefully no one in Hawaii will know me except Igor," Murphy said.
While most of the competitors in Hawaii will have completed a half-dozen to a dozen triathlons in their careers, this will only be Murphy's second triathlon in 10 years--yet he has proven himself well in the few competitions he's entered. In his only other triathlon race, he finished 15th in a field of approximately 700 in Atlanta in 1987. He qualified and raced in the 1989 Boston Marathon, finishing 74th overall.
Moreover, because Murphy has worked as a lifeguard for the last 14 summers at a New Jersey beach, he's had a chance to measure his swimming and running ability against fellow lifeguards, some of whom have finished in the Top 75 at the Hawaii Ironman.
His goal in Hawaii is not just to complete this extraordinary feat of physical endurance but to finish in the Top 100. Murphy is aiming for a time of nine hours, 30 minutes on a course that requires 2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles biking and 26.2 miles running. The ultimate winner normally comes in around eight hours, and the record for his age group is 9:13.
Murphy does not expect any miracles; he just has confidence that he trains well and will be prepared when he goes up against some of the top athletes in the world. Besides, it can't hurt that fitness is his profession.
As a senior lecturer for the past 17 years in the Department of Health and Physical Education, he has found ideal time to train. With the swimming and outdoor classes he teaches in the middle of the day, he has early mornings and late afternoons to make use of the facility in which he works--the George Woodruff Physical Education Center.
"My job is a plus--not everyone has an Olympic-size swimming pool, weights and a track in their office building," he said.
It was only last year that he began training for the Ironman, ending a five-year hiatus precipitated by foot injuries. Now he averages three workouts a day.
"When I train, I try to imagine the worst possible scenarios for Hawaii," he said. "I plan to go as hard as I can without going near the edge." His original motivation was to push his body to the limits, but this past summer he gained additional motivation from a friend.
In fact, Murphy's competition shirt in Hawaii will not bear the name of a sponsor or team, but rather that of Jon Myers, a 1999 University graduate. Myers, who ran cross-country for Emory, broke his neck in a car accident and has been undergoing rehabilitation to regain use of his extremities. Murphy coached Myers for three years, and the two became good friends.
"When I have a tough day training, I think about Jon," Murphy said. "He does not have a choice in his current condition. But I do."
As Hawaii looms on the horizon, everything has come into place for Murphy to be successful. "The timing is perfect: I am where I want to be in my life, with a job that provides me the needed flexibility. I have the extra pocket money and am healthy with no injuries. It will just be a matter of measuring my gas tank correctly."
It is true that he does not have the name recognition of a Dave Scott or a Mark Allen, two of the sport's elite competitors, in the field of runners in Hawaii. But he will be Scott Murphy of Decatur, Ga., one of only 600 athletes to represent the Unites States in a total field of 1,500. And if he finishes where he wants to, maybe the race announcer will not hesitate to say his name this time when he crosses the finish line.
Editor's note: Scott Murphy finished 88th out of 170 competitors in
his age group and 776th overall. His time was 11:08:55. The winner of Murphy's
age group was Igor Kogoj, whom Murphy beat in April. Murphy said he will
give his Ironman T-shirt to Jon Myers.