This is an exclusive interview with Clayton Murphy with David Hunter. David Hunter has written several pieces on Clayton Murphy on RunBlogRun. We look forward to watching Clayton Murphy race at the USATF Champs in Sacramento.
June 11th, 2017
Clayton Murphy’s proven middle distance range combined with his unparalleled progression over the past 4 years has sparked much speculation over which event he would elect to race in this month’s upcoming USATF outdoor track and field championships. Would he run the 800 meters where his 1:43.60 clocking earlier this April is the #1 world-ranked performance this year? Or might he step up to the 1500 meters where he has demonstrated great potential and his 3:51.99 in the Bowerman mile two weeks ago is the American leader and is tied for #5 on the world leader board? Murphy – never one to back away from a challenge – found a way to sidestep that tough decision: He’s planning to compete in both events. “Coach [Lee] Labadie and I kind of made the decision about the possibility to double toward the end of the indoor season,” stated the Nike athlete in an exclusive interview. “We looked at the schedule for both and reviewed them. And we thought there was a possibility based on the schedule. So it was just going depend on training and how I felt leading up to it. Everything we’ve done and every decision we’ve made has been based around the double. All the races we’ve selected, the patterns of workouts, the patterns of races we did select, when they were, what they were have all been based around doubling.”
As the early outdoor season produced positive results for the Ohio native, the prospects of Murphy competing in both middle distance events appeared more promising. “It is why we held back on racing so much as of late,” explains Murphy. “I didn’t race after April as much as we could have. We’ve more or less been in a training block since the April racing. We kind of wanted to just train and build strength to push this double,” The clincher came at the Prefontaine Classic. “And when I ran the Bowerman Mile and ran to my expectations there, we kind of just decided at that point it was a “Go” thing. At that point we really started to fine tune everything to get ready to run both at USA’s.”
How much of the decision to attempt the double was based upon observed, recent performances of other American middle distance athletes? “Zero. I don’t think you can into a championship worrying about what other people are going to do. It’s all about what you produce on that day. Every factor we considered was all about training, racing, and my performances in races and workouts from the time we talked about the double up to the time we made the decision to do it. It was based around myself and what we thought I could produce at USA’s and the thinking that I can make the team and beat the people in competition.”
Murphy has been in Oregon over a month and provides an insight on why. “I’ve actually been in Eugene since early May,” he clarifies. “The reason for all this was our original racing schedule. I had planned to race at Oxy High Performance and we actually ended up pulling out of that because of the plan to double. We were planning Oxy, Prefontaine, Portland Track, and USA’s. With 4 weeks on the west coast, it didn’t make sense to make 4 cross-country flights [from Ohio] in 2 months. That was the biggest basis for the decision to train out here for 2 months. This plan reduced travel, stress, and eliminated the loss of workout days due to travel.” Clayton and his long-time mentor Lee Labadie found a way to adapt to being 2800 miles apart. “It’s tough obviously as it put a little stress on Coach Labadie’s and my relationship with me being across the country and working out. But we’ve been able to make it work. We communicate through texts and calls daily. We have a schedule and everything is worked through Coach Labadie and he has full control of what I’m doing. Everything I do is OK’d through Coach Labadie. It’s coach and me working together. It was just easier for me with the travel and keeping in a training block for 2 months.”
Murphy quickly debunked persistent rumors that his extended stay in Oregon also was to allow meetings with various athletes and coaches in an effort to find a training group pairing that would work for the all parties concerned. “The basis of the decision was the training and the travel. I stayed with a couple of coaches. I worked with a couple of coaches. I had a couple of coaches run workouts on my own. I worked out with [Andrew] Wheating. I’ve been up in Portland and worked out with groups up here,” he explains. “But it is, more or less, the availability of training partners and availability of coaches to help. Being part of the same Nike family, they want to see me succeed. So at this point the focus is all on USA’s and London coming up. At the end of the season, if there is the possibility to discuss something like that [some affiliation with an Oregon-based training group], that’s the moment to do it.”
Earlier today the former University of Akron star tuned up for the USATF championships in the Portland Track Festival. Did the middle distance star run the 800 meters or the 1500 meters? Neither. Clayton resolved yet another racing dilemma his own way: He competed in the 1000 meters where his intentions were to attack Rick Wohlhuter’s 42-year-old American outdoor record of 2:13.9. With Wohlhuter present in the infield to witness the assault and invited fans present on the track to cheer the record attempt on, Murphy tucked in behind his rabbit as the 2Â½ record attempt unfolded. Passing 400m in 52 flat, Murphy was right on – perhaps a tad quick. The pacer approached 600m and drifted out, leaving the Olympian all alone on the final circuit. With the clock showing 1:20 at 600m, the record time was slipping away. Murphy’s valiant last lap rally shot him past 800m in 1:47. But Murphy – his tank virtually empty – had little to give over the final furlong, hitting the line in 2:17.17. “Yeah, it was a little tough. I gave it a whack and came up short. So I can’t be disappointed,” said Murphy after the race. “I gave it everything I had, but just came up a little short. I heard ’52 right on’ so we were a little bit faster at 400 and that might have cost me at the end. I wasn’t that far off. But when I hit 700, I just didn’t have it.” Between breaths, the Olympian explained why he undertook the record assault. “We kind of knew we had both standards. So at this point I just wanted to get into a race. I was kind of hoping for a little better field – kind of a race setting.” Later this month in Sacramento, the fields and race settings Clayton Murphy hopes for will be there for him – in both the 800 meters and the 1500 meters. Dave Hunter