Training for Crim 10-mile road race helped Tom Murphy of Flushing keep living after death of his wife

Training for Crim 10-mile road race helped Tom Murphy of Flushing keep living after death of his wife

FLUSHING, Michigan — The Crim 10-mile road race may have saved Tom Murphy’s life.

TomMurphy2.JPGView full sizeTom Murphy, 80, of Flushing shows his Crim 10-mile medals.

Murphy of Flushing was 75, mired in depression over the death of his wife and had gained too much weight when his brother stepped in and showed him another way to live.

John Murphy ran marathons in his late 60s, despite having Parkinson’s disease. He encouraged his brother to get back on his feet and train to walk the Crim five-kilometer road race.

“I said, ‘Don’t they have a 10-mile?’ ” Tom Murphy said. “I said, ‘I’m signing up for that.’ He said, ‘You don’t have to.’ So, I got in the group, and I’ve done real well.”

Murphy, now 80, will do the Crim 10-mile walk for the fifth time Saturday.

He wasn’t a runner or walker when he signed up for the Crim Training Program in 2007. He had never done a road race in his life.

“Exercise was nothing new to me,” he said. “I was in the Marine Corps when I was 19 years old in Korea in 1951. I figured I survived that. Being Irish is another thing  — we have a great desire to excel.”

Before discovering an active lifestyle he enjoys, Murphy had to emerge from a dark place in his life.

His wife, Beverly, died of cancer April 2, 2004. Murphy said she had cancer in both lungs and in her liver, as well as nine tumors in her brain.

TOM-MURPHY.jpgView full sizeTom Murphy, 80, of Flushing walks in the Bauman's Charity 5K Aug. 18 at Kettering University.

“Hospice set up a bed in the living room,” he said. “I took care of her from January to April 2, when she died. That was a very traumatic experience, seeing somebody who looked healthy and by the third month they looked like they were in a German concentration camp, nothing but skin and bones.”

When his wife died, part of Murphy died, as well, he said.

The two traveled frequently after Murphy retired from Chevrolet Manufacturing in 1994.

“My wife and I were like one person,” he said. “So, when she died, it just took half my life away from me. I didn’t do much of anything. I just sat around the house.”

But he found a new home — and a positive outlook — in the Flint-area running and walking community.

“Nobody complains,” he said. “Just like when I told a gal I’m going to do the Crim again in ’08, she said, ‘Aren’t you afraid?’ I get tired of hearing negative thinking. I like the Crim because nobody there is negative. They’re there because they want to be and enjoy themselves.”

Murphy has overcome a health scare of his own to continue taking part in the Crim.
Shortly before doing his first Crim in 2007, he experienced light-headedness. A cardiologist recommended that he get a stent inserted to widen a narrowed artery.

Murphy insisted on delaying the procedure until after the race.

“I trained 15 weeks for the Crim,” he said. “He said, ‘You might die.’ I said, ‘I tell you what, if I can’t do that, I will probably fall back into deep, deep depression again.’”

Murphy made it through the 2007 Crim with a time of 2 hours, 28 minutes and 42 seconds.

When he came in to get the stent implanted, he woke up from surgery and learned that doctors discovered he had three arteries completely blocked and needed a quadruple heart bypass.

“I said, ‘Doc, how am I going to do in ’08?’” Murphy said. “He said, ‘You’re going to do a lot better, because you’ve got new arteries.’ My heart was in excellent condition, but my arteries were shot. When my wife died, I couldn’t cook anything. I got all this fast food. It probably plugged my arteries up.”

Murphy did do better in his next Crim, finishing in 2:22:30 despite some of the hottest, most humid conditions ever for the race. He lowered his time to 2:12:57 in 2009 before finishing in 2:25:17 last year.

“I’m 80 years old,” he said. “You can pursue your life and accomplish a lot of things you didn’t think you could do. It’s just a matter of keeping it positive. In life, even though we have a bad time, you can’t be dwelling on it all the time. All it does is makes you sad.”