The Murph Challenge: It’s Kind of a Big Memorial Day Deal

By Katie Lange,
Defense Media Activity

Every year, our nation commemorates Memorial Day to honor the service members who gave everything for our freedom. One of those service members in particular spawned a movement that’s led to a lot of people literally working their butts off over the holiday weekend.

A service member from Joint Task Force-Bravo does the run portion of the Murph Challenge at Soto Cano Air Base, May 25, 2017. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Scott Thompson

It’s called the Murph Challenge, and it was created in 2014 in honor of Navy Lt. Michael Murphy, a SEAL who died in Afghanistan in 2005 in a battle with the Taliban, which later became famous in the Mark Wahlberg movie “Lone Survivor.”

Murphy created the workout that the challenge is now known for, and it’s definitely intense. Here’s the breakdown:

A 1-mile run.
Easy, right?
Then 100 pull-ups.
OK- it suddenly just got MUCH harder.
Then 200 pushups.
Then 300 squats.
And ANOTHER 1-mile run.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Holden does a pull-up during a Memorial Day Murph Challenge and pararescue workout event at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., May 29, 2017. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Areca T. Bell

You can do the exercises in any order, but the goal is to get them done within an hour. And guess what? You’re doing all of this wearing a 20-pound vest or body armor – your choice.

The challenge happens every Memorial Day and has become super popular. Even celebrities have been doing it and posting about it on social media.

Murphy’s Story

Navy Lt. Michael P. Murphy. Navy photo

Murphy was a Navy SEAL who was thrust into the spotlight after his life had ended. The upstate New York native was part of a four-man team scouting a Taliban-aligned militant while high in the Afghan mountains on June 28, 2005, when all hell broke loose. The team was spotted by some locals, who reported their position to the Taliban, and a fierce firefight ensued.

Murphy and fellow SEALS Matthew Axelson, Danny Dietz and Marcus Luttrell were outnumbered, wounded and forced into a ravine. They couldn’t get a good signal under cover, so Murphy put his own life on the line, going out into the open to transmit a call for help. He got shot in the back during this time, but finished the call and still made it back to cover with his men.

He eventually died, as did Dietz, Axelson, and 16 service members who were shot down in a Chinook helicopter while trying to rescue them. Luttrell was the only survivor, who managed to escape and get help from friendly villagers, who took him in, nursed his many injuries, kept the Taliban away and eventually got him rescued.

The incident was the single largest loss of life for the SEALs since World War II. Murphy, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, was the first Navy sailor to earn the distinction since Vietnam.

How Can I Do the Challenge?

If you’re interested in trying it, you can go to themurphchallenge.com to register. Then, after you (hopefully) make it through the workout on Memorial Day, go back to the website and enter the time it took you to do it. You can compare your results to other participants (there’s even a leaderboard), and the top five men and women will be recognized for their awesomeness.

We’ll also be promoting this blog on the DoD Facebook and Twitter accounts, too, so you should definitely post a video or a photo from your effort there as well!

Air Force Staff Sgt. Ana Shockey completes pushups during the Murph Challenge event at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, May 19, 2017. Shockey finished first in the female category with a time of 41:35. Air Force photo by Christopher DeWitt

“I think events like the Murph are a great opportunity to put oneself through some adversity, to feel a little pain and reflect on the adversity others have faced,” said Air Force 2nd Lt. Scott Bean ahead of the 2017 event. “Murphy faced extreme adversity in combat . . . and fought with tenacity and selflessness. His example is great motivation to keep pushing when things get hard.”

Since 2014, the challenge has raised nearly $1 million for the Lt. Michael P. Murphy Memorial Scholarship Foundation, which gives scholarships to an increasing number of students each year.

So this Memorial Day, before you chow down on those hot dogs and apple pie, push yourself and try the Murph Challenge!

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