5 Defining Moments of Murph: the Most Brutal CrossFit Hero WOD?

Some WODs are more than WODs. They become things of legend.

Engraved in your memory like a Rebeca Black song, you NEVER forget your first Murph.

Murph is possibly the most gruelling of all the memorial WODs and is named after Navy Lt Michael Murphy who was killed whilst serving in Afghanistan. The Lieutenant was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for bravely exposing himself to direct enemy fire while he called for assistance for his team, putting his own life on the line to save that of his team mates.

The hero WOD in his honour was designed to put the mental toughness of every CrossFitter to the ultimate test. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of attempting this beast of a WOD, you’ll recognise these 5 defining “Murph moments” that we must all go through in our struggle to the end of that second mile…

1. The “Murph is coming” moment

With a cocky and unsuspecting stride, you walk into the Box. You’re on it today. Whatever challenge faces you, you are ready to tackle it head on. There’s banter galore with your CF buddies. You’ve put the work day behind you, this is your “me time”. Aw man, you just love the box.

Until your coach announces the WOD.

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You side glance your usual workout partner to see if they just had the same pang of panic at the sound of the infamous word “Murph”.

Like a shit sandwich, Murph begins and ends with a deceivingly easy-sounding 1 mile run, with 100 pull ups, 200 pushups and 300 air squats in the middle. For time.

You brace yourself. The pain is coming and you wonder: is it actually physically possible to do 100 pull ups and 200 pushups in one WOD?

2. The strategy moment

But your coach is on it. He sees it – the deer in highlights look. It’s time to strategize.

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When you break it down, it doesn’t seem too bad. 5 pull ups, 10 push ups, 15 squats. Do-able? Yes. Do-able 20 times? Just maybe…

3. The “what have I got myself into?”/ “will I ever finish?” panic moment

You nailed the first 1 mile run.

You’ve broken down your pull ups, push ups and squats into bite-sized chunks and you’re slowly chipping away at them.

But 3 rounds in with 17 to go, you realise you may have made a terrible, terrible error.

10 push ups in a row is becoming a struggle. Instead, the rep sets start being broken down into their own mini rep sets.

4 press ups – breathe – 3 press ups – water – 2 press ups – shake it out – 1 press up. Next!

17 more sets may as well be a million at this point.

In just three short rounds you’ve gone from…

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To…

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Exhaustion sets in and even the air squats (which you’d secretly considered your “recovery time” at the start) are becoming a serious battle.

Is this the longest WOD in the world? What if they have to lock up the Box later and leave you here, flopping about in a pool of your own sweat? It feels like eternity.

4. The humbling moment

5 Definitive Moments of Murph: the most brutal CrossFit hero WOD? 2Your quads are on fire. Your T-shirt is drenched. Your arms dangle helplessly by your sides – they no longer belong to you. You wonder when it will end and whether anyone will notice if you just crawl out of the door to your car.

But then you begin to channel something outside of yourself. You remember that this is a HERO workout. You remember what your coach said about Murph. Not Murph, the infamous ass-kicking WOD, but Murph the man. Lt Michael Murphy.

You remember that you’re pushing yourself to your limit for a reason. You think about the service men like Lt Murphy serving their country, dropping out of C-130s, losing limbs and lives all in the name of freedom. You think about what they have sacrificed and you remember: you really can quit if you want.

If you really want to, you can down tools, walk out of the Box and sit in your car and cry. But you remember that your pain and suffering is insignificant in comparison.

And you rally.

Lt Murphy never quit, so neither will you.

5. The sprint finish (or not) moment

Your patriotic-fuelled second wind has got you through the worst of it. Finally, the end is in sight. Just a measly little one mile run to go. You got this.

But a one mile run has never felt so hard. Forget the sprint finish, your mind is telling you to run, but your legs respond only with a lame, zombie-like drag that feels about as fast as a grandma hobbling along in a walking frame.

You are 99% sure this mile is about 3 times longer than the first mile.

Eventually, you limp back into the Box like a wounded deer.

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Congratulations – you survived Murph!

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Feeling humbled and honoured to have participated, you enjoy your post WOD BBQ time, trying desperately not to let your freshly abused callouses bleed into the chips and dips.

It may be over, for now. But remember that no matter how many times you do Murph, it never feels any less brutal.

Every Murph you do—whether it’s for memorial day or just another week day WOD—will never fail to humble you…. and if you do ever feel like you’ve conquered Murph, there’s always the RX. Weighted vest next time, anyone?

Neola Wilby

Neo is a personal trainer and freelance fitness writer from Yorkshire, England. A qualified solicitor, she ditched the pinstripe and her legal career to pursue her passion for fitness. She’s now much happier in trainers and trackies, pushing tyres around and writing about all things fitness.

  • JS

    Neola-

    Thank you so much for making sure to post a picture and description of the hero wod’s inspiration.

    So often folks post just the movements and forget to honor the person.

    It’s truly appreciated. The section on remembering the hero is so true. In your work, you honor the hero and what they gave their life for.

    If you are able to edit posts, can you add a link to the Lt. Murphy scholarship foundation?

    Great article!