Runner profile: John Murphy

Runner profile: John Murphy

This is one of a series of profiles on runners training for one of the Illinois Marathon races.

Name: John Murphy
Hometown: Champaign
Age: 50
Occupation: Associate professor of communication at the University of Illinois
Race: half-marathon

At this time last year, John Murphy was not a runner.

He didn’t exercise much at all, although he liked to hike when he had the opportunity.

But the night before last year’s Illinois Marathon, he joined his partner, Cara Finnegan, and a group of runner friends at a pasta dinner.

“All those people were having so much fun,” Murphy said. “It was so cool, and everybody was so excited.”

He watched runners cross the finish line in Memorial Stadium the next day, and he was inspired. Especially by the fact that the racers came in all shapes and sizes. Not all had the typical lean runner physique.

“It made it seem much more possible,” Murphy said.

He started running shortly after the race. It was quite the lifestyle change for the former smoker, who smoked a pack and a half of cigarettes a day for more than 15 years, on and off.

Murphy moved to Champaign-Urbana from Athens, Ga., in June of 2008, and he chose that time to quit, because he’d be leaving the surroundings in which he’d smoked.

“It’s an addiction, and moving was a great opportunity to quit,” he said.

After he began running, he relied on the advice of veteran runners — especially Finnegan. She convinced him of the importance of good shoes.

A staff member at Body n’ Sole Sports recommended a training program called “Couch-to-5K.”

“I’m forever grateful to Body n’ Sole for recommending that,” Murphy said. “I got going without hurting myself.”

He ran his first 5K race with Finnegan last Labor Day in Arthur. They picked a small race that wouldn’t be too overwhelming. Murphy was nervous, but “It was a lovely little small town, and it was great, and it was really simple.”

He’s running three days a week now and training for the Christie Clinic Half-Marathon on May 1. He’s joined Second Wind Running Club’s training group, and he plans to do a 9-mile run this weekend.

“It would be harder without all those nice people doing it with me. It’s really been helpful,” Murphy said of the training group. “I think it would be hard to do this on my own.”

He’d like to eventually run the Bix 7, a 7-mile race in the Quad Cities, where he grew up.

Murphy is enjoying the feeling of being a runner.

“It feels really good,” he said. “I’ve never been an athlete, and it just feels good
to do it. I feel better for the rest of the day.”

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