Saturday, March 22, 2008
Eulogy for Bill Murphy
“You are what you love, not what loves you”: That is a line from Susan Orlean’s 1998 novel The Orchid Thief, which became the film Adaptation, 2002. When I first read that line, I thought a lot about it, about how unhappy we sometimes allow ourselves to become when the person whom we love does not love us in return. Donald Kaufman, the character in the film who speaks that line, who expresses that philosophy—and it is a philosophy, a fonn of wisdom—loved a woman who did not love him, yet he is untroubled, perhaps even content. It is enough, he says, to love; it will suffice. To ask for or to expect any more than that is to be selfish, greedy, a sort of emotional glutton.
When my sister asked me to speak today about our father, I soon realized that the best way to recall and honor his life would be to talk briefly about some of the things my Dad loved. We are, after all, what we love, not what loves us.
My Dad loved the sea. He was born in 1929 and grew up in East Boston, swimming and fishing in Boston Harbor. When I was born in 1948, he was working cutting fish at the Boston Fish Pier; weekends he spent fishing or island exploring in Boston Harbor. Some of my earliest memories involve the East Boston Yacht Club down on the end of Jeffrey’s Point, where my Dad kept his boat and had a locker for his gear and a bunk. Because he knew so much about the sea, and especially commercial fishing, my Dad was able to acquire in 1956 a j oh with the federal government, a job that became his career. Until he retired, he work for the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, at first in Maine and then in Rhode Island and Connecticut, visiting seaports, fishing vessels, and various seafood dealerships, gathering and compiling statistics for the government. I remember how all the fishermen liked and respected him, trusting that he would not tell the government anything that the government did not need to know. Many of the boat captains would often put aside for my Dad an especially nice Pollock or Flounder or Lobster; therefore, we always had fresh fish at home. All his life my Dad loved nothing so well as good seafood: steamed clams, fish chowder, boiled lobster, blue crabs, little necks on the half shall, conch salad, fried smelts and flounder, and stuffed quahogs. If you knew my Dad, you knew the delight he took in catching, filleting, shucking, cooking, and eating such food.
My Dad loved to run. When we still lived in East Boston, he took up the sport of long distance running. Running was a lot different back then in the Fifties than it is now: the sight of someone running in trunks on the street was very strange, even suspicious. Anyone seen running on the streets back then was perceived as somehow un-American, no doubt either a criminal on the lam or a Communist. Even the Boston Marathon in those days would be lucky to field a hundred runners, all male. But still, my Dad pursued the sport with a sort of monomania, training twice a day, before and after work, and on the weekends. During racing season, which lasted from early spring to fall, we would travel to races throughout New England and he would race against the same guys week after week, winning a toaster in Athol, Mass. one Saturday or a waffle iron in Westerly, Rhode Island the next.
My Dad ran for a team called the B.A.A. (Boston Athletic Association) whose members sported yellow and blue uniforms with a unicorn on the jersey; but there was a number of other teams as well, the whole constituting a sort of amateur multiethnic fraternity, Irishmen, Italians, Franco-Americans, Native Americans, White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, and blacks who all ran long distance because they loved to run long distances. They loved to push themselves against themselves, to see how far they could expand their own physical and psychological perimeters, to discover the limits of endurance. On some level, the competition was not so much other men, other runners, as it was the self that inner voice that kept clamoring for attention, for rest, for oxygen, for surcease of aching gut, bruised bone, and burning muscle. That voice was what my Dad sought to beat, back then in the Fifties and Sixties and right up to the end.
Why anyone should love such a struggle, I do not know, but my Dad did love it. It was his personal battlefield, his private heroism. He never won a major race, but that really did not matter: what did matter in the world of long distance running was whether or not one finished. That was the question I heard over and over again when I was a boy: did you finish? To finish was grounds for satisfaction, not to finish was grounds for dismay. Still, at the top of his game, my Dad did more than just finish: he once came in third at the Canadian National Marathon in Quebec and in the early Sixties placed twenty-fourth at Boston one year. I remember other boys talking about Mickey Mantle, Jimmy Piersall, and Roger Maris. My Dad’s heroes were Jim Peters, Emil Zatopek, Abebe Bikila, and the great Irish-American hope, Johnny Kelly.
This love of running led to his love of other sports and activities as well. It was his love of hiking and mountain climbing that first brought us to New Hampshire and these White Mountains. It led to his love of tennis and bicycling and skiing. It led him and Maggie to Nepal and to New Zealand, and to an epic coast-to-coast bicycle tour.
But my Dad was not just an athlete; he was an intellectual, too. He loved to read, and many of his favorite books were about endurance. Endurance, I think, was in his mind the best of virtues. Kenneth Roberts’ Benedict Arnold, the Henry David Thoreau who climbed Mt. Katahdin, Jack London in the Kiondike, Sergeant Alvin York, Ernest Shackleton, FridtjofNansen, Justice William 0. Douglass, Sir Edmund Hillary, Santiago from The Old Man and the Sea, and the legendary Gloucesterman Howard Blackburn. My Dad was always giving me books about some brave individual trudging or rowing across some wilderness of swamp or ice or ocean water, struggling to survive, to take one more step or one more pull at the oars. Literature, for my Dad, was a source of inspiration; it taught him (and me) the meaning of courage and endurance. My Dad was one of the bravest men I have ever known, from his earliest days as a fatherless boy during the Great Depression in East Boston right up to his final battle against disease. Like the displaced farmers in The Grapes of Wrath, like the blessed poor in the Sermon on the Mount, the working people, the salt of the earth, the beaten but undefeated, my Dad endured.
And finally, my Dad loved his family and his friends: Nana and Pa, Bob and Irene, Ann and Jane, his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. When he and my mother were married, and we were all much younger, my Dad worked hard and steadily to provide us all with a good home, a strong religious and moral foundation, a respect for public education, and a love of our native land. These lessons that my Dad taught us were not always received in the same spirit or form with which they were initially given, but the lessons were, nonetheless, received. My brother Tom, my sister Karen, my brother Shawn are kind and thoughtful people, the sort who work hard, take their small pleasures where they find them, with their spouses, their children, their pets, and their friends, and they do it quietly, without pushing other people around, without stepping on other people’s toes. They, we, are my father’s most enduring legacy; I know how proud he was of each of them, of us. And I am sure that I speak for all here when I say, as did Horatio at the end of Shakespeare’s great tragedy Hamlet, “Good night, sweet prince, I And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
--William J. Murphy, Jr. (3/7/08)
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Photo from southcoasttoday.com
1:10:20, 17th place
Good race overall. Going into the race I felt I could run anywhere between 1:10-1:12. My recent races were pointing towards a 1:12. Last year I ran a PR of 1:10:00 after running pretty well all winter. The first couple of miles felt pretty good, but the I was laboring on the hill before 3 miles. When we made the hard left towards the downhill stretch at 3.5 miles I was hanging off the back of the lead pack. I ran with Ethan Hemphill for a mile as we tried to reel in the stragglers ahead of us. I felt strong but I just didn't have the leg speed to go with Ethan when he made a break. I kept the hammer down and caught my former UNH teammate Steve Meinelt around 5 miles. I said "Tempo day Steve?" He replied with "Yeah". Not sure what that meant but I never saw him after that. I was starting to feel a little sluggish at 8. Two BAA guys caught me at 9 which was a blessing in disguise. We worked together for a couple of miles in the brutal wind that always shows up on this section of the course. At 11 miles Mark LaRosa gapped me, but I kept the hammer down. At this point I knew that I only had 2 miles left and that I could still possibly PR. Oh yeah, I forgot about the nasty long hill from 12-13. On the hill I passed a laboring Eric Blake. From there I worked it hard to the finish. It was probably the best sprint I've had in a while. I am pretty happy with my race considering that most of the guys I was racing are in the middle of their Boston Marathon prep. I'm just now starting my real base phase for Mt. Washington. I was also happy with the way I raced. It was the most focused I have felt in a race in a while.
While my winter races were decent this year, I didn't enjoy getting my butt kicked. I followed the Foxboro 10 Miler with weeks of 75 miles, 53 miles plus skiing, and a 17 mile week to prep for Ski to the Clouds. This week I was shot out of a canon and managed to get in 103 miles. This week was the first time I've ever hit the century mark and my first time over 90 miles since March of 2006. So far I'm feeling pretty good. I'm planning on getting 5 more weeks of 100 miles before I start focusing on workouts for Mt. Washington.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Contributed by Miler Bob Seaman
At the end of last year’s triathlon season I had no plans to do a marathon during our February vacation in Florida. But the idea came to me after a website I frequent, (no not that kind of website “Slowtwitch” a website made up of triathletes), began a “running challenge.” One of the triathletes from Ottawa suggested that we should challenge each other to do 100 runs in 100 days. If we had to take a day off, like I did after the Nordic 300, then the next day we had to double up and run twice (not easy after Skate skiing for 5 hours the day before let me tell you).
The sound of this challenge intrigued me: 1) I was just numb enough to take on such a dare and b) I wanted to be faster next year, not Tilton or Brown faster mind you, but Bob faster (otherwise loosely translated to “faster enough to catch Shauna Ross in the ½ next year”). So on Dec 1 we started the challenge, there were close to 200 people participating in it, some from Europe, Canada and even New Zealand.
A quick look at the calendar showed we would finish said insanity on March 10, so I began to look for something to test my new fitness out on. Luckily were had plans to go to Florida at the end of February, but there really not many races to choose from during the time we would be there. Being more of endurance guy, not really a speed guy (keep your comments to yourselves), I noted that Gainesville was holding a small sized marathon. 2 problems immediately saw was it was a marathon (my longest run in the 100 days was 18 miles, I have done no speed work and of course I couldn’t taper or rest after the race lest my streak would end). The second problem was that Gainesville was a 4-hour drive from Naples, were we were staying. One the pro side of the ledger, it being a marathon meant I could qualify for Boston if I did well. Besides that during our vacation we would be holed up with my wife’s parents (the greatest in-laws in the world! And no I am under no duress as I write that), her sister’s family of 4 and our family of 4 all 10 of us in a 2 bedroom condo. Suddenly the idea of driving 4 hours, running a marathon, then driving back actually started to sound enticing!
The drive to the race was the night before, I originally planned just to sleep in the rental car (yeah I am cheap so what) but while scouting out the registration area some told me there were still some rooms set aside for runners at a local hotel, and at a cheap rate, so I jumped on that! I got up way early because I was unable to pick up my packet the night before. I registered and had over an hour to kill so I decided to drive some of the course some. To may shock, horror and dismay even, Gainesville had hills! Not long unrelenting Kanc kind of hills, but short steep nasty little ones that like to bite you in the legs and laugh at you as you stumble over their crest. While driving I also heard the latest weather report, temps approaching 90 with 80 to 90% humidity, damn it whose idea was it to drive some of the course! Usually I blame such foolish things on Curtis Cote but he was in Cali and I was alone, I shouldered the complete blame.
The race began on time, one side of the divided highway had ½ marathoners and the other side had the full boaters. The announcer said there were 900 doing the short course and about 400 registered to do the long, but it didn’t seem like that many. I always get a bit intimidated at the start of a running race; after all I am a triathlete, meaning I am not good enough in any one sport to do well so I try them all and hope for the best. Surrounding me are all those freaking skinny running type people, with race shirts saying the completed every race ever organized south of the Mason Dixon line, ready to make me pay for my foolish decision to run a marathon while on vacation.
The cannon went off without any warning; it made such a racket that someone said they thought Sherman was marching on Gainesville, no one found that comment especially funny so I later apologized for it. The ½ marathoners were all little rabbits for the first 13 miles, while a group of about 10 of us marathoners hung pretty closely together. I tend to start in the front these days; I find it takes a lot less energy to be passed (well none at all in fact) than to pass slower people, that is how I found myself among the leaders. After about 5 miles the two fast guys were warmed up and bolted. I really wasn’t aware of my overall position in the marathon until the ½‘ers broke off. That’s when I found out I was battling it out for 3 place! Later investigation has shown that Fort Lauderdale had a big marathon the week before, the A1A Marathon, which many of the good marathoners went to, but who really needs to know that.
My half marathon time was 134:15 by my Garmin, 1:35:xx by their clock. Let just say Bernie Livingston was not timing this race and I felt distance and times were a little off, that’s why I note the time differences. Now 1:34 and change is a PR for me in the half so I was going a little faster than normal, well ever actually, and now I find out I am among the leaders. Suddenly, and quite unexpectedly I might add, my legs decided to pick up the pace. They threw down a 7-minute mile, sprinkled in a few 6:50 miles and generally acted irresponsibly. The second tier pack I was in stayed pretty close to each other for the next few miles. I even commented once “I just came here to qualify for Boston not race a marathon”, another runner quickly retorted, “Well your racing now!” followed by “don’t you ever shut up?”
As I approached mile 20 it became apparent that my lack of long runs, the 85-degree heat (after running a few months in nothing warmer than 40) the near 90% humidity and the hills were taking their toll. Luckily for me we had put some distance between the groups of runners behind us that it seemed like I wouldn’t be caught before the finish.
I came across the line 7th overall, 6th male and first in my age division at 3:14:14. The time was good enough to qualify me for Boston (although I later found out Boston was closed and therefore I will be banditting it dressed as Elvis, picture an older, in shape Elvis, with a one piece rhinestone outfit, mirror glasses …but I digress). It was certainly the best I could have done under the conditions and I felt great about my effort and a PR by over 2 minutes I might add.
By the way I lied before, I did run once in the heat. I ran at the Eastern Slope Inn on a treadmill next to the pool, while Maury was giving the kids a swimming lesson, it was like running in a freaking sauna, I nearly died! I would also like to thank MJ for selling us her treadmill at a ridiculously low price, and then delivering to our house by herself and my wife for putting up with all the noise from said treadmill for 100 days. With all that said, watch out Shauna! I will shut up now.