Marathon ef­fort

Rod Gil­mour meets the goal­keeper who in­tends to run 26 miles in full kit

The Hockey Paper - - NEWS -

Meet the goal­keeper run­ning 26 miles in full kit for char­ity

When the week­end comes, step­ping over the white line onto the hockey pitch is usu­ally “a great es­cape” for Will Mur­phy. In darker mo­ments, he still can’t quite free him­self and has found it a strug­gle – even from be­hind the rel­a­tive anonymity of his goal­keeper mask – to fin­ish matches.

The 30-year-old suf­fers from de­pres­sion. In less than a month’s time, there will be no hid­ing place when he takes to the start line of the Vir­gin Money Lon­don Marathon. He will valiantly at­tempt to run the 26.2 miles – his first or­gan­i­sa­tional run of any note – re­splen­dent in his goal­keep­ing kit, kindly do­nated by OBO, the be­tween-the-post spe­cial­ist.

With his hockey sea­son now over, Mur­phy is fo­cus­ing on sev­eral strands; fit­ness and rais­ing money for Mind, the mental health char­ity. More­over, he is re­mark­ably can­did in not only talk­ing about his ill­ness but also how he might fare on the streets of Lon­don.

“As some­body who is look­ing to fin­ish it, things are go­ing okay,” he tells The Hockey Pa­per. “There is no strat­egy yet. It was never about go­ing sub-four hours wav­ing in my GK kit as the Kenyans whizz by. It’s a case of get­ting to the line un­der the max­i­mum time.”

He has the right at­ti­tude con­sid­er­ing that he was late to train­ing. Mur­phy was put on the wait­ing list last Oc­to­ber and put the set­back to the back of his mind, un­til he opened an email in late Jan­uary telling him that a slot had be­come avail­able.

He re­calls: “I sat for an hour to think about it. I had just over two months to raise £2,000 and train for 26 miles. I didn’t know if this op­por­tu­nity was go­ing to arise again. I just went for it. Peo­ple said I was a nut­ter for at­tempt­ing it – but that’s why I’m do­ing it!”

Um­pire fees have been waived for do­na­tions, while fundrais­ing matches against sides like Ilke­ston have taken place. The hockey fra­ter­nity has got on board and the aero­space en­gi­neer is cur­rently well on the way to mak­ing his ini­tial fundrais­ing tar­get.

When we speak, on the 30-day count­down, he can run up to ten miles com­fort­ably. Mileage has also been ac­crued in his kit – but only around the pitches of Derby HC, his lo­cal club. As April 23 looms, he is con­tem­plat­ing go­ing to his lo­cal gym and us­ing the ma­chines in full kit. That would be quite a sight.

Derby is Mur­phy’s eighth club. He admits to hav­ing trou­ble re­mem­ber­ing ex­act dates, mem­ory loss be­ing one of the side ef­fects of his med­i­ca­tion. He does, how­ever, re­call he started to play the sport, aged 15, at Crewe Va­grants. He was even play­ing in the same bad­gers and 3rd XI as cur­rent Eng­land in­ter­na­tional Henry Weir.

Af­ter univer­sity and a va­ri­ety of clubs in his twen­ties, he stopped play­ing for 18 months be­fore com­ing back three sea­sons ago. Af­ter more match-day trav­el­ling, he even­tu­ally took the de­ci­sion to join Derby, just a mile down the road from his house.

“The aim was not to take it se­ri­ously,” he says. But 12 months later he was made first team cap­tain. The con­fi­dence came swoop­ing back, both on and off the pitch. He has since used his cap­taincy to in­flu­ence the side, yet he admits: “I don’t want to sug­ar­coat it, it has been ab­so­lute hell at times.

“But step­ping over that white line is a great es­cape – espe­cially as a goal­keeper,” he says. “There is noth­ing to fo­cus on, other than keep­ing the ball out of the net.”

With dual re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, cap­taincy has thus been a strug­gle for him. “When you’re suf­fer­ing from anx­i­ety and you get a phone call from a player say­ing they can’t make it, those have been se­ri­ous mo­ments. There have been times when I’ve felt lost on the pitch.”

But the sea­son run-in has sparked a change. The or­gan­i­sa­tional skills that come with cap­taincy have im­proved. So too has his hockey, fo­cus and en­joy­ment.

Mean­while, he has agreed to carry on as skip­per next sea­son as well, while he’s also been nom­i­nated as club per­son of the year. Af­ter all, he is fully en­sconced in Sun­day tour­na­ments, Fri­day ju­niors, is cap­tain of the newly in­stalled mixed side and han­dles the club’s so­cial me­dia.

In darker pe­ri­ods, he admits that some med­i­ca­tion has made him quite ag­gres­sive at times. He re­flects back to an East Mid­lands Divi­sion 1 match, when a weak­ened Derby side were 3-0 down at Ne­wark be­fore be­ing awarded a late penalty flick.

He had felt tired all match. He didn’t watch the flick and had put his goalie smock over his head. All he wanted to do was get off the pitch. He told him­self that if he didn’t hear the um­pire sig­nal a goal, he would sub him­self off. “That was a par­tic­u­larly low mo­ment for me. It was that re­al­i­sa­tion that hockey used to be my es­cape. It didn’t mat­ter what hap­pened dur­ing the week.”

There have been other low times, too. The 300-mile round trips in the ex­pan­sive North Di­vi­sions and a red card a few sea­sons ago when he was side­lined for 30 days for a vo­cal out­burst, de­spite be­ing de­lib­er­ately hit in the chest. “I re­acted com­pletely in­ap­pro­pri­ately. On the flip side, it made me re­alise how much of a miss hockey can be. I learned my les­son and haven’t had a card since.”

He is as open on his ill­ness as he is when writ­ing on the field hockey fo­rum where he first raised his con­di­tion in 2011. And read­ing some of the posts, it is also ev­i­dent how many other posters have also suf­fered from mental health is­sues.

Mur­phy says: “It’s al­most like a high­light, a hor­ri­ble one though, as it means that other peo­ple are suf­fer­ing. From some of the re­sponses, I’ve had two to three hun­dred pounds in do­na­tions from peo­ple I barely know. It re­ally is quite a thing.”

Away from the fo­rums, there there have been sev­eral high points dur­ing Mur­phy’s well­trav­elled ca­reer. “Know­ing that I had made the Mid­lands Pre­mier Divi­sion with Har­borne,” he states. “I had reached a point know­ing that if I won that, I would be play­ing in the Na­tional League.”

And then there’s last sea­son in the dy­ing sec­onds against Pan­thers HC, of Leicester, when Derby were 1-0 up and their ri­vals won a penalty corner on the fi­nal whis­tle. Mur­phy takes up the story: “As the guy hit it, it was straight and com­ing down my right side, but our num­ber one run­ner had de­flected it high. As I dived, I kept my hand high and gloved it over the bar.” Cue cheers and the fi­nal whis­tle. “That is pretty much the dream move for a goalie,” he says.

Mur­phy will now hope to avoid the dreaded aches and cramps and move as freely as he can over the Marathon course. He has yet to de­cide if he will wear the full kit, com­plete with padded shorts and ab­dom­i­nal guard, due to the se­vere rub­bing. All the same, hav­ing a unique out­fit and hockey stick will cer­tainly mark him out from the rest of the run­ners – and maybe at­tract the at­ten­tion of the BBC cam­eras.

“I would wel­come peo­ple want­ing to have a chat, to give me that lit­tle bit ex­tra if I’m strug­gling,” he admits. “I’m all for it. But I don’t think I can go all the way, in hockey terms, and have a snakebite and black!”

Mur­phy will no doubt drink in the crowd’s emo­tion in­stead, as he sets about con­quer­ing both his ill­ness and this heroic chal­lenge.

We can only ad­mire his hon­esty.

The Derby HC goal­keeper will fol­low in the foot­steps of Michael Fer­nando (far left, and above), who com­pleted the 2015 Lon­don Marathon in his hockey goal­keeper kit af­ter los­ing a bet with a friend.

The Ox­ford grad­u­ate ran in hon­our of his fa­ther, who passed away shortly be­fore his run­ning feat.

He fin­ished in a time of 5:45:02.

Mur­phy, left and be­low, is pic­tured in ac­tion for Derby.

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