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Marquette student runs through the polar vortex

By Liz McGovern


The polar vortex sent Marquette students into hibernation. Many sought refuge from the cold by settling in for a Netflix marathon under a warm blanket. McKinley Murphey, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, wasn't among them. He went outside and ran for 17 hours in the annual Frozen Otter Ultra Trek through the Kettle Moraine State Forest.

Murphey finished at 3:30 a.m. on January 18 with an time of 17 hours and 29 minutes. He finished second to David Goggins, a U.S. Navy SEAL and famous ultramarathoner.

"I lost to a world-class runner and a Navy SEAL, but I came in first for the normal people," Murphey says. "It was an awesome experience."

The 64-mile trek is considered one of the toughest races in the Midwest, where runners battle unpredictable and, often, dangers weather conditions. Less than 10 percent of runners finish.

And crossing the finish line was no easy task for Murphey. He had mild frostbite, his body ached and he trudged through snow piled to this knees. By the 48th mile, Murphey wanted to call it quits, but music helped him finish strong. He listened to everything, from heavy metal to Disney musicals. He often sang along with the tunes on his iPod to pass the time.

"Nothing is more unsettling (for other runners) than getting passed by someone belting out Deep in the Hundred Acre Woods by Winnie the Pooh," he says.

Murphey stumbled into his running talent by accident after joining the no-cut track team in high school. He quickly fell in love with running and thinks that running is an adventure.

"I like getting outside and exploring," he says. "Running is the best way I can explore a new place, whether that's in a city or the backwoods."

Murphey has raced in several marathons and ultra trek races races of more than 50 miles including the North Face Endurance Challenge and the Marine Corps Marathon. He wants to become a sponsored runner after graduation and dreams about someday running the Badwater 135. Badwater, described as "the world's toughest foot race," starts at the bottom of Death Valley, Calif., and is 135 miles long. The race is in July, when the temperatures frequently reach 120 degrees.

"I do everything in moderation except run," Murphey says. "I cross the finish line cheering and screaming. It's my passion."

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