(This post was updated 1/5/2020, as there was no initial write-up at the time
of this event – initially, there were no plans to run a second event.)
This was the first event where I carried Old Glory in a running event. The intent was to carry this flag to honor the career of my father, SSGT Fred Murphy, who served honorably for more than 20 years in the United States Air Force. He served in Logistics and Crypto-maintenance while deployed stateside and overseas. It was important for me to honor him as I was born close to the time he retired, so I had no memory of him in the service, I remember asking him at one point if he was presented with a flag at retirement. He said that he did not. I wanted to run this flag in his honor while I could still look in his eyes and tell him, “Thank you for serving our country. Your service mattered and I appreciate your honorable service”.
Prompted by my sister, LaVonne Murphy Schepis, I conceded to join her in her first (and my first) Half Marathon, but I had no training or interest in running beyond this single event. The only experience I had in such events was to walk a 10K when my brother, Frank Murphy was in town.
The idea of carrying Old Glory was inspired by seeing a photo of my brother carrying a 3×5 flag during a Run For The Fallen in Indiana a few years prior to this event. When I saw the photo, I was 260 pounds and not interested in doing anything to improve my health much less start lacing any running shoes. After losing 70 pounds, I was liberated to do things that used to be impossible, so when LaVonne asked if I would join her, I thought this would be my chance (assumed to be the only time I would voluntarily subject myself to such abuse).
LaVonne carried this flag for part of the journey so that when we presented to our father, it would have been carried, at least for some of the 13.1 miles by his oldest and youngest children. He intended to participate in the event, but due to recovery from a recent back surgery, he was not yet cleared to do so. To ensure he would comply with his doctor’s orders, a condition of us carrying the flag was that he would stay home and rest as directed. He complied, but was not happy about it – he was eager to participate.
As LaVonne and I negotiated the course, there were elevation gains and what seemed to be much more than 13.1 miles on that course. Within about 3/4 mile of the Finish Line, a United States Marine Veteran, who I would later know to be Bennie Jose Perez, passed us on his wheelchair; outfitted with two U.S. flags on the seatback, he breezed passed us. I was so motivated to see this patriot giving all he had that I turned to my sister and said, I am going to see if I can catch him – my intent was to cross the finish line with him. This was my all-out best effort to speed up and I just had no conditioning to catch him. After I finished, I met up with him and had a brief chat about his story, his inspiration and his amazing attitude.
As my sister crossed the Finish Line, we discussed how hard it was, but also how supporting the running community was all through the event. Since that first event, we have both continued to run and have shared some amazing experiences as you will see in these postings.
Reflecting on what followed my brothers first visit to walk the 10K of the Houston Half Marathon in 2017, LaVonne and I ran the Half at the Kia Fort Bend Half Marathon in Sugar Land the following January; my sons have run several events with me, including Half Marathons Jordan Murphy and I ran our first Full Marathon together with Frank), my daughter, Katie Murphy and her boyfriend, Cody Ray ran with me in a Half Marathon, my dad is now a runner and frequently joins me, Britt Schepis (my niece) is also a runner now and has run several events with me, Maria Jurotich (also my niece) has run a Half Marathon with me and I have gained so many close friends in what I would later learn to call “my tribe”. Special thanks to my supportive wife, DeeAnn, and our kiddos, my parents (Fred and Margaret Murphy), Team RWB, and all my new friends! I am truly blessed to have each of you in my life.
As of the time of this update, 86 flags have been carried over 1,375 “event” miles to honor veterans, hometown heroes and patriots. Thanks to all who shared in this journey.