Runner Justin Murphy

Justin Murphy has some lofty running goals for 2015. As he discusses his upcoming races, Justin admits that he faced some obstacles recently. He explains, “I am coming off of a broken foot right now. I have been in a walking boot for a few weeks, but it is coming off on Tuesday. I will resume training then.” Justin’s goal race is the 2015 Chicago marathon. He will be running with the Project Purple marathon team to honor the father he lost to Pancreatic Cancer in 2013.

Justin Murphy is an Industrial Hygienist who lives in Wichita, Kansas with his wife and children. He also serves in the National Guard. Though he had to run short distances for his military training, he was never a distance runner. He turned to running for solace and comfort, however, when he learned that his father had Pancreatic Cancer. In May 2012, his father, Kelley Murphy, had seen a physician because he had been experiencing symptoms which included stomach pain. Kelley’s doctor ordered a CT scan which showed a tumor in Kelley’s pancreas.

Justin with his son & father
Justin with his son & father

Kelley’s tumor was biopsied and determined to be Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma. Unfortunately, the cancer had already spread to Kelley’s lungs. Because his cancer was already at Stage IV, he was not eligible for potentially curative surgery. Instead, he began chemotherapy aimed at slowing the spread of his disease. His doctors said that he would only live a matter of weeks. Eventually Kelley was entered into a clinical trial. He received traditional chemotherapy along with another drug that was designed to boost the effectiveness of the chemo. Kelley received treatments until his white blood cell counts dropped dangerously low. At that point, the doctors felt that there was nothing else they could do to help him. Kelley decided that he wanted to be at home to enjoy his family as much as possible over the last weeks of his life. He had been given only weeks to live when he was first diagnosed. With the help of traditional treatments and clinical trials, he ultimately lived 8 months. Kelley passed away in February of 2013.

Justin & his father, Kelley, at Justin's graduation.
Justin & his father, Kelley, at Justin’s graduation.

Justin was shocked by his father’s diagnosis. He says, “My dad was the guy I always went to for help. I learned so much from him. He taught me to always follow through with what I said I would do in life.” He remembers his father as being very involved in his life when he was growing up. “My dad was very active with the church youth group. He was always there for our activities, whether it was sports or band. I learned from him how important it is to really support my own kids’ activities.”

Justin was an athletic kid who had run a few 5ks when he was in middle school and high school. For the past 15 years, though, he really had not run much beyond the 1.5 mile fitness test required by the National Guard. Running soon became a source of comfort for Justin. He found that he really enjoyed having time away from people so that he could process his own emotions. He started going for short 30 minute jogs around his neighborhood so that he could think things through. This was his time to contemplate the major life decisions that his family faced and he found it very therapeutic.

Justin has joined several running organizations and he has found the group runs and camaraderie to be motivational. In 2014, he was chosen to be part of a group that took nine novice runners and turned them into marathon runners. He enjoyed the social aspect of the group and found it very inspiring to be able to run with the other group members as they worked towards a common goal.

Justin completed the Prairie Fire Marathon in 2014 and shortly thereafter started thinking about what goals he wanted to conquer next.

Justin in the early miles of the Prairie Fire Marathon
Justin in the early miles of the Prairie Fire Marathon
Justin running the Prairie Fire Marathon with his support crew surrounding him.
Justin running the Prairie Fire Marathon with his support crew surrounding him.

He belongs to a running group in Kansas that sends dozens of runners out to run the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon each year. He decided to take the plunge and signed up for the Ascent in March of 2015. The race begins at an elevation of approximately 6,300 feet and gains 7,815 feet over the course of a half-marathon. Runners end up at the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado, which has an elevation of 14,115 feet.

Justin did not stop with setting the lofty goal of running the Ascent. On Boston Marathon day this year, Justin watched the race and thought how fun it would be to run a big city marathon. He did not think he would be able to run a Boston qualifying time, but became intrigued with the idea of running for a charity team. As he researched charity teams and marathon running, he ended up finding the Project Purple Chicago team web page. He liked the fact that Project Purple had a more intimate rather than a corporate feel.  Justin has long felt frustrated by the fact that so little is known about what causes pancreatic cancer. He officially a part of the Project Purple Chicago team and will be running to raise money to help unlock the mysteries of the illness which took his father from him.

Justin surrounded by his very supportive wife & children
Justin surrounded by his very supportive wife & children

As Justin attempted to increase his training, however, he discovered that he had a broken bone in his foot. For now, he is in a walking boot. As soon as he gets the green light from his doctor, he will resume training for his upcoming races. Justin is looking forward to getting back to running, as he has missed the time he spent on his runs reflecting on life, problem-solving and thinking about his father. He is also looking forward to honoring his father as he runs the Chicago Marathon with his Project Purple teammates.

Please support Justin’s fundraising efforts by making a donation to his Crowdrise page:

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