Utahn Grayson Murphy Dominates on Trails and Roads
If it seems like world-class runner Grayson Murphy came out of nowhere on the pro running scene, it’s because she did. Grayson grew up playing soccer and ran only for condition, until joining the Santa Clara University track and cross country teams during her sophomore year.
“I experienced a very explosive rise to the top,” says Grayson, “going from being the worst on the team to the best,” and soon found that she enjoyed running.
Given her relatively short time in the racing scene, Grayson has racked up some impressive wins. At her first post-collegiate race, the 2018 USATF Outdoor Championships, she finished seventh in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. In her first two professional road races — the Deseret News 10K and the Great Cow Harbor 10K in Northport, New York—she took second place. In 2019, Grayson won the World Mountain Running Championships in Argentina then a week later the XTERRA Trail Run Championship Half Marathon in Hawaii.
So how did she start winning competitive races so quickly? It all started in college. Grayson spent two years at Santa Clara before transferring to the University of Utah for a better program. Since she was already competing, the U couldn’t recruit her. So she contacted them, got a release from Santa Clara, and found that Utah was not only willing to make a place for her on the team, but would give her a scholarship too.
By her graduation in 2018, Grayson racked up an impressive array of running accolades: All American in cross country, All American for indoor track in the 3K and 5K, and All American in outdoor track for steeplechase. She accomplished it all while earning her degree in civil engineering—though she does it more as a hobby than a career.
Returning to Utah
After graduation, Grayson signed with Northern Arizona Elite (NAZ Elite), sponsored by HOKA. She moved to Flagstaff and trained there for a year until she realized she wasn’t enjoying the team or the training style. She missed running Salt Lake City’s trails and competing solely on roads. Grayson was homesick too, and decided to move back home to Utah in June 2019. “I was missing my family, my friends, and my boyfriend,” she says.
Upon returning to Utah, she embraced trail running and signed up for her first off-road race. Grayson toed the line of the Cirque Series’ Brighton race in June 2019, and struggled with running at the high altitude and snowy conditions. Despite having to walk some of the course, she came in second place to Olympian Morgan Arritola.
While it was challenging, Grayson loved the experience and signed up for more difficult races. Things started rolling from there, and she won the 2019 at Hobbler Creek Half Marathon, Cirque Series-Sun Valley, and the Huntsville Half Marathon.
Saucony Comes Calling
In August 2019 at the brutal Bridger Ridge Run trail race in Bozeman, Montana, Grayson came in second place with a time of 3 hours 41 minutes, but she and the first-place finisher broke the long-standing course record.
However, it was September’s USATF Mountain Running Championships that changed her professional running fate. Grayson knew it was a risky career move to go forward with no sponsorship and no team, but after winning the USATF Mountain Running Championships, she qualified for Team USA and sponsorship offers rolled in. While she and her agent spoke to several companies before the race, it was running shoe and apparel company Saucony that came through with the best offer.
Besides her sponsorship, Grayson earns prize money from races plus bonuses from Saucony if she places in an agreed-upon race. But she runs for fun too, and recently ran and won the Antelope Island 25K, even though it wasn’t eligible for the Saucony bonus. Her favorite win so far was running the World Championship in Patagonia in November 2019. She raced the 14.7K race in 1:15:20 and took first by 21 seconds.
Overall, Grayson loves her blossoming running career. “I am grateful for the chance for full-time sponsorship. My main job can be running. I don’t have to have side jobs; I can focus on running and enjoying it without worrying about how to pay the bills,” she says. “It is not common in the running world and I don’t take it for granted. I have friends who would kill to have what I have.”
But she doesn’t do it alone. Technically, Grayson is an independent runner who works with a coach, and hers is Boulder, Colorado-based David Roche—who trains mountain trail runners nationally and internationally.
However, all her coached training is done remotely. Roche writes her training and she then reports back to him by text or email on how the sessions went. “At this point, I don’t need someone to watch me run,” Grayson says.
Looking to the Future
Grayson plans to race on trails and roads in 2020 and is focusing on races that are 10K or longer on both surfaces. She likes mixing it up to prevent boredom, and her long-term goal is to qualify for the 2024 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.
As for what it takes to become an international competitor, Grayson generally runs 70 miles a week, averaging about 10 miles a day. She does two strength sessions at the gym and will sometimes take an easy day of cross training if she is particularly tired. Early in the season she runs once a day, but later in the season she runs twice a day.
Her advice for those who’d like to follow in her running shoes? “Don’t try and do it all at once. It is a process,” Grayson says. “Enjoy the process of getting there as much as getting the wins. And be patient.”