Interviewed by: Paul Matuszak and Kevin Brandon
Charlie Murphy has been running with PRTC since January 2015 after finding out about the club by Kevin Brandon, a co-worker at the time. While Charlie has primarily been specializing in track events ranging from 1500m to 10000m, he was able to transition his success on the track to the grass when he became the clubs top finisher at Club Cross Country Nationals held in San Francisco this past December. Before he gets his feet wet in the road scene later this year as he trains for his first marathon, Charlie has quite a few track races left this summer. Charlie was kind enough to respond to some questions this week as he prepares for the 5000m at Club Track National this Saturday at Franklin Field.
1) Charlie, thanks for taking the time. First off, there are some big names in the 5000m this Saturday. Having run 14:33 last spring, what is your goal going into the race?
Yeah this is an interesting field. I’ve never seen a field with this large of a spread between the 1st and last seeds. There is over 2 and a half minutes separating the prs of the fastest and slowest guys in the race. I have no idea how things are going to play out, but I just want to be competitive and finish as high as I possibly can.
2) How did you end up in Philadelphia and when did you start running? Did a specific event compel you to become a runner?
I first moved to Philly 3.5 years ago. Most of my friends from college already lived here and I was coming down every other weekend to hang out, so when a position at my company opened up here I jumped at the opportunity.
As for when I got into running, I ran as a kid doing rec track and stuff like that. I was better than average but nothing special. But I was better at running than any other sport, so when I went to high school I went out for the xc team.
3) Can you give us a brief overview of your running career?
Well for my first couple years of high school running I prided myself on the fact that I was good despite being extremely lazy and running at most 15 miles per week (good being a relative term; i was like a 5:30 miler). But around my junior year a couple of my teammates started reading this website Dyestat, which was a website that focused on high school distance running news. I started reading it and it made me realize that I wasn’t nearly as good as I thought I was and that I could be so much better if I put a modicum of effort in. That really lit a fire under my ass and from then on I was obsessed with running and being the best runner I could be. After high school I ran track and xc at Bucknell, but I had some trouble adjusting and never really fulfilled my potential. I’ve kept competing after college though and I’ve basically improved every year.
4) What kind of training works best for you? Have you picked up any especially wise running or training advice over your career?
My training’s pretty simple. I do 70-80 miles with two workouts per week, and do most of my mileage around 7:00 pace. The biggest change in my training over the past few years has been how I approach and design my workouts. Our college workouts used to be short but very intense and difficult. Nowadays I do the exact opposite. My workouts are longer but easier. So for example whereas in college we might have done something like 3×1600 at 5k pace with 90 seconds rest, now I would restructure that to be something like 7×1000 at 5k pace with 2:00 or even 2:30 rest. You get more of a stimulus out of the latter workout, but the intensity is lower and in my experience you don’t grind your body down as much. That simple change in workout philosophy is pretty much the only difference between what I did back in college when I was stuck at 15:10-15:20 and what I do now.
5) Can you tell us about a race you are particularly proud of or considered a break-through?
The race where I set my high school mile pr is still my favorite race memory of my life. Coming into the season I had set my sights on all these lofty goals, but as the season went on it was looking increasingly unlikely that I was ever going to achieve what I wanted to. I had run 4:32 as a junior, but a year later I was still stuck running low 4:30s despite an extra year of maturity and a lot of really hard training under my belt. By May I had resigned myself to the fact that I was basically just a 4:30 miler and was never going to be any better than that, and it was really depressing for me. Then out of nowhere I ran a 4:20 in the first round of our state champs. I beat all these guys that I thought I could never beat in a million years, and in that single moment all my confidence and all my hope came rushing back.
6) Any epic blow-ups or horror stories to share?
I have a really good story regarding an ailment that frequently afflicts both me and Paul, but it’s super embarrassing so I’m going to refrain from telling that in this forum haha. I haven’t had many blow ups though. The only major one I can think of was my sophomore year in high school. I was racing the 2 mile at our conference champs and decided it was smart to lead the race through the first mile in 5:12 (my pr was only 5:10 at the time). I blew up hard and ended up getting doubled lapped by the winner. It was embarrassing but a good learning experience.
7) Health wise, how are you feeling lately? You had a great performance at Penn Relays (30:20 for 10000m which is the fastest 10000m performance since the PRTC resurgence over the past couple of years), but I know some hamstring issues popped up shortly after. Are they behind you now?
Yeah I think I just had a low grade hamstring pull. It was bothersome for a few weeks but I’ve since gotten back to full training and I’ve been feel great lately.
8) Talk a little about the Penn Relays race. How do you think the result compares to your fastest 5000m races? And which event do you still feel like you have a lot of time to chop off still?
In all of my best 5k races I’ve come away thinking “that was the most painful thing ever and I never want to do it again”. But every time I race a 10k I come away thinking “hmm, that wasn’t so bad”. So solely based on that I think I have more time to drop in the 10k than in the 5k. Penn Relays was a great race but our pacing was a little erratic. I’m definitely planning on giving it another shot next year, and hopefully the weather will be a little better for the sake of the spectators!
9) In addition to cross country running this fall, you will also experiment with an increase in road racing. Specifically, I believe you plan to run your first marathon in January 2017. What triggered this idea?
It’s funny, I never really liked road racing much and never had any interest in the marathon until fairly recently. I think what triggered it was a couple of my friends were training for Boston so I did a few long runs with them up in Valley Forge and loved it. I had never really done long runs before other than the super hungover ones we used to do in college, and they were very new and exciting to me. I started reading about marathon training and following the training logs of the guys who were gearing up for the Olympic Trials marathon and since then I’ve been really into the idea. I’ve been doing 5k training for so long that doing something totally different for a change is really exciting for me.
10) While we know you enjoy (or at least are good at) running and some of us have seen you crush a power hour, tell us a little about some non-running/power hour things that interest you.
Not a lot of people know this about me but I’m really into nature. I love wildlife photography, birdwatching, hiking, backpacking, conservation, things of that nature. Living in Philly I don’t get to do nearly as much of these things as I’d like to though (Editor’s note: this explains Charlie’s obsession with the trees in San Francisco)
11) Lastly, none of us at PRTC are full-time athletes. What do you do for work and fun? Do you find running fits in well with your more general life goals?
I work at Arch Insurance Group as a contract surety underwriter. The simplest way I can describe is we write guarantees for construction projects. Most of my free time outside of work and running is spent…reading about running. I’m kind of a loser haha. I go out on the weekends sometimes but my friends are mostly alcoholics and I’m finding it harder and harder to keep up with them during nights out!