When Pierce Murphy won the Santa Monica Classic 10K earlier this month, he earned a gift certificate for a running store.
A week later, he claimed first in the Heroes in Recovery 6K in Malibu, California, and won the overall prize of $150.
Not exactly the stuff of riches, but definitely the stuff of dreams.
“Right now, I’m trying to make the whole running thing work out,” Murphy said in a phone interview with The Garden Island on Monday.
The 2011 Island School graduate recently graduated from the University of Colorado. But before he did, he earned All-American honors eight times in track and cross country and was the college’s number one runner.
The 23-year-old’s passion for running, particularly running fast, still burns. So, he recently moved to the Los Angeles area, where he’s competed in road races and is looking for more chances to go up against the best — and perhaps claim some prize money, too.
He won the Santa Monica Classic in 30 minutes, 55 seconds, leading a field of 2,666 runners.
Another runner stayed with him for a mile, then Murphy pulled away with a surge and led the rest of the way.
“It was a big race,” Murphy said. “The prize money wasn’t too big,” he added with laugh.
Still, he appreciated the gift card, good for a pair of shoes and more — his first winnings since leaving college, where he wasn’t allowed to receive any type of monetary compensation for running. Now, he’s free to race and win — both the competition and any cash prizes offered.
He hopes to do just that.
“I just have to find a race with a good amount of prize,” Murphy said.
He found another one, Heroes in Recovery 6K trail run in Malibu, on Sept 18.
It was a relatively small race, with a tough, hilly course in the mountain, “up and down the whole time.”
“I couldn’t get any rhythm,” he said.
Still, Murphy won in 21:13 and claimed the first-place prize of $150. Again, nothing that will make him a wealthy man, but a step toward earning a living with his very fast feet.
“It’s something,” he said. “I’m looking for more and will hopefully do well.”
While he took a break from serious training after graduation, he’s back at it. He’s increasing his workout and weekly mileage to reach the level that made him one of the top distance runners in the nation.
“Now that I have potential races in the next five weeks, I’m going to have to pick my miles up a little more, get as fit as I can,” he said.
Murphy has taken his running into the digital world, as well.
He and his girlfriend, Lily Mindel, also an Island School and UC graduate, started a website, Outbreak Kauai.
Its focus is fitness, nutrition, and running on Kauai.
“We created Outbreak Kauai to help inspire and show people how much Kauai has to offer through running and by staying healthy,” they wrote. “Outbreak is designed to help motivate, educate, and inspire people on the importance of creating a healthy lifestyle. Kauai offers a wide variety of places to run and get exercise. Outbreak was created to show people that Kauai is the perfect place to explore exotic and beautiful locations while working at personal goals, health, and fitness.”
Murphy said people he knows would often visit Kauai and ask him where was a good place to run.
“There’s nowhere to run here,” they said.
On his website, Murphy shares nearly 25 running locations. Some are flat and pavement. Some are hilly and dirt trails. Some are deep in the forests and some offer scenic ocean views. Some offer peace and solitude.
He gives directions on his favorite routes at Polihale Beach, Brennecke’s Run, Alakai Swamp Trial, Wai Koa Loop, Secret Beach, Hanalei Bay and Anini Road. There’s some easy-to-find ones at Lydgate Park, Lihue Airport, Vidinha Stadium and Kealia.
That’s kind of what started Outbreak Kauai.
“People were confused on running on Kauai and they didn’t know where to run,” he said. “I was asked so much and Lily was asked so much, so we started a little website that mentions the runs that we do. Now, when people go to Kauai, they know where to run.”
Pierce and Lily expanded the site to include some of their favorite places to buy healthy food, pick up a smoothie or enjoy an organic meal.
They also offer advice on training, recovery, diet, and even how to pick out the right running shoes.
“I hope Outbreak Kauai gives you all that inspiration to go out and experience what this beautiful island has to offer,” Lily wrote.
While both plan to continue to return to Kauai, they’re committed to pursuing career opportunities on the Mainland. For Pierce that includes film, his area of study — where he earned his bachelor’s degree from UC — and, of course, running.
“I’m focusing on both,” he said. “Running has been what I’ve been doing mostly.”
He’s just getting started in chasing down those dreams.