Unknown to many Americans who watched him win the 800 meter bronze medal Monday, Clayton Murphy distinguished himself by taking his opportunity to dream…and making the most of it.
Like most of America who sat at home and watched him run in Rio on Monday, I have never met New Paris, Ohio native, Clayton Murphy.
Like most, I had previously never seen him run. Admittedly, I’m not that big a fan of track and field.
But I got to know a lot about the 21-year-old graduate of Tri-Village High School and Akron University distance runner by simply watching him compete. It was right there to see, unmistakable to those who have seen possibility in their own lives…and took the time to make a dream become reality.
Yes, Clayton Murphy is a dreamer; you have to be to dedicate yourself since grade school to running. Miles and miles of individual exertion that you do by yourself, because less than 1% of the population in America has that kind of discipline to train and withstand the disappointments.
Without knowing him, I know Murphy’s a dreamer because to have gotten as far as he did on Monday takes far more than luck, or a break here and there. And that’s what makes him different from rank-and-file who will tell you that life, or the race…or even race…is stacked against them.
They don’t dream. They just wait for someone else to hand them an outcome and call it…a dream come true!
They don’t compete. They complain about the inequalities that have held them back.
They don’t achieve; because they cannot understand the reward of achievement…the independence and the appreciation of self respect.
But this is what I learned about Clayton Murphy Monday, having never met him, just watching him run, and compete, in a little less than two minutes.
He didn’t get the best break at the outset. Distance runners never want the #1 lane position, and that’s what Murphy got. It’s easy to get bottled in by runners converging from the outside lanes on the track and that’s what happened to him. He ran in fifth and sixth position for three-quarters of the race.
It looked like he got bumped by traffic at the head of the home stretch when he turned for the finish line, a stumble that seemed to throw him off stride – that cost him a step.
But you knew he was a dreamer when he sorted out the field with a hundred yards to go. He had trained. He had prepared himself mentally to compete and achieve that dream when opportunity finally looked him in the face. His kick took him to fourth place. And suddenly alone in the #3 lane he had fifty yards to go to track down a tiring runner in front of him running in third place. With twenty five yards to go he overtook him and sprinted the remaining distance to the finish line, winning the bronze medal a second behind the favorites, David Rudisha (Kenya) and Taoufik Mahkloufi (Algeria).
He didn’t win gold, but bronze. But his win was, nonetheless, a golden moment for those who would see it for what it was. It was achievement in the face of adversity. It was defying the odds against the favored, more experienced, and perhaps more gifted. It was the first time since 1972 when another Ohioan, Bowling Green’s Dave Wottle, actually won the 800 meter run, and in 1994 when Johnny Gray won bronze, that an American had even won a medal in the event. All those years of others who might have, and could have, but didn’t.
I don’t know him. Never met him. But I’ve met others like him in other walks of life. They don’t complain, and they don’t blame others. They have a vision of what they want and just do it. A dream!
The difference in Clayton Murphy, apparently. Congrats!