Army ROTC Cadet/Harvard Student Takes on the Boston Marathon
John Murray has always strived for success both athletically and academically. He grew
up playing hockey for the South Shore Kings and the Cape Cod Whalers. Currently he
is a student at Harvard where he is in the Army ROTC program, and he was previously
a member of Harvard men’s hockey program for two years after walking on as a
freshman. John will commission into the U.S. Army as an Infantry Officer this May. He’s
looking forward to running 26.2 for the Corey C. Griffin Foundation on April 17, 2023.
1) Last year, you “rucked” the Boston Marathon to honor fallen military and first
responders. Explain what “rucking” is like and how your experience doing that
Rucking the marathon was an unbelievable experience and it was an honor to be able
to do that for our fallen military and first responders. Previously the Boston Marathon
Tough Ruck was held on the same course and at the same time as the marathon, but
after the marathon bombings in 2013 they moved it to the Saturday before Marathon
Monday and changed the route to the Minuteman Bikeway out in Concord, MA for
security reasons. As a result, there were a lot fewer people out there cheering for us,
and most of the marathon was spent in the middle of the woods. Rucking is when you
walk/run (usually around a 15 minute per mile pace) carrying a 35+ pound pack. I found
that doing the Tough Ruck was a big mental and physical grind. By the midway point, I
barely had any skin left on my feet and my hamstring was so tight I could barely bend
my leg. Walking through the woods in that kind of pain with no one cheering for you was
an interesting experience, but I had some great guys doing it with me and we pushed
each other to the end. Ultimately crossing that finish line made everything so worth it.
After that accomplishment, I knew that this year I wanted to run the Boston Marathon
and experience the true atmosphere of the race.
2) How has your training experience been for the Boston Marathon? Any
Training for the Boston Marathon this year has been a great experience. When rucking,
there is a lot less training that goes into it, because quite frankly no matter how much
you train it is going to be grueling – you just need to get through it. For running the
marathon, obviously the more training you put into it the better off you will be on race
day. Growing up primarily as a hockey player, the only running I ever did was during
lacrosse or conditioning. I have had to train my body to do distance running for the first
time in my life, and it’s been fun. From little things like what socks or compression
shorts to wear all the way to where my heart rate should be hovering at different
distances…I have had to learn it. During the middle of January, I tweaked my knee on a
short run and could barely walk, I thought I had seriously injured it. After seeing an
athletic trainer, it turns out my hips were tight, causing pain around my kneecap — a
common injury for distance runners called iliotibial band syndrome. After spending a
week cross-training on the bike and a lot of pigeon stretches, I was back running and
have had no major challenges since.
3) What keeps you motivated?
A lot of different things have kept me motivated throughout my training. Growing up in
Dorchester, I have wanted to participate in the Boston Marathon ever since I was a little
kid. After the 2013 marathon bombings I saw how the city rallied together, and that
made me want to do it even more. I have two older brothers who I have been trying to
keep up with my entire life; both completed marathons recently, so that has kept me
motivated on days when it was hard to train. One of my best friends at Harvard is also
competing in the marathon this year so we have been keeping each other motivated
and accountable. Lastly, running in Corey’s honor and in honor of some other people
who have had an impact on my life and are no longer with us has been the best
motivation of all. I always think of them when training gets hard, and I know I will be
doing the same on race day.
4) What is your favorite cross-training activity?
A big thing at my school is running Harvard Stadium so that has been my favorite cross-
training activity. Harvard Stadium is built to replicate the Roman Colosseum so “running
a stadium” is when you run up and down the steps of each section. Doing a full stadium
usually takes around thirty minutes if you are going full speed and puts a burn in your
legs like you have never felt before. So, on days when I need to maximize my workout
in a short amount of time, I love doing the stadium. The combination of the mental and
physical grind is great preparation for race day.
5) Music or no music when running? If music, any favorite songs on your
I am absolutely someone who needs to be listening to something while I am running. I
try to mix up what I am listening to on every run to keep things fresh. Usually, it is EDM-
type music, but on days when I need to switch it up, I always listen to some country
music. On some runs I have started to listen to podcasts too. On the day of the
marathon, I plan to listen to some music to get me into it but for the majority of the run,
I’m planning to go with no music and soak up the experience as much as possible.