So on Monday I took part in Crossfit Durham’s annual Memorial Day Hero WOD Murph. You can read about the details of the WOD’s inception here if you’re interested.

The workout consists of:

1 Mile Run
100 Pull Ups
200 Push Ups
300 Air Squats
1 Mile Run

To do the workout as prescribed you would also complete that work wearing a 20# weight vest.

I did not wear a vest. I’m still plenty heavy enough as it is. My personal goal, beyond completing the WOD, was to do all of the reps strict. IE: kipping pull ups with no assistance, strict push ups and air squats. In between the runs, I partitioned the work as twenty rounds of 5 pull ups, 10 push ups and 15 air squats. It took 1:04:15 to get it all done and I scaled the last 15 pull ups to jumping pull ups because my kipping pull ups disappeared after 17 rounds. So close to that second goal!

This was one of those days where there was so much more than a workout going on. I’ve done this workout every year since 2011. Each of those years I did it with a partner, a battle buddy. We ran together. Then divided the calisthenics between us. That was my intent this year. I like doing the workout that way. To me it feels more in the spirit of honoring the troops and first responders that these WODs honor. I prefer the concept of working with a battle buddy.

Up until Sunday, I had no intention of attempting the workout solo this year. I had pondered on and off since last Memorial Day if this might be the year I’d try it solo. But I never really mentally committed to it. As the day grew closer, I had zero intention of going alone. I’m still recovering from a leg infection. I haven’t been working out consistently. I just didn’t feel ready. The list of reasons not to do it went on and on and on in my head. But then a funny thing happened.

Coach Lindsay started a Facebook thread over the weekend encouraging folks to synch up and line up partners online in advance of the WOD. A number of my friends from the 6:15 crew all agreed to meet at the 10am session and many of them were making their first solo attempt at Murph. So I figured, “Hey, why not?”

I still can’t say with certainty whether that decision was made out of inspiration seeing so many friends step up to the challenge of going solo or succumbing to an internalized peer pressure. One of those, “Hey, if those guys are doing it solo, you should be doing it solo.” Probably a combination of the two. Either way, I wasn’t ever really working alone.

After all, as I mentioned, half a dozen of my closest work out friends were there working side by side through their WODs. Plus, there were close to 30 people in attendance at that session. Every one churning through their chosen version of Murph. We were all bantering back and forth. We were shouting out encouragement all morning long.

In the end I was, by a long shot, the last person working. It was at that point, that the camraderie particular to crossfit gyms kicked in. People started cheering me on and offering encouragement as I ground through my final rounds. My friends Greg and Phil jumped in and completed the last two rounds of exercises side by side with me, even though both of them had just spent the better part of an hour doing all the work themselves.

My son, Greg’s wife Amy and our friend Rebekah all accompanied me for that final mile. It was grueling. It was painful and it was oddly fantastic. To have that support from my friends along that route was cool. Then when I turned the final corner to finish the last 50 or so meters most of the gym was standing outside cheeering. That was amazing!

After the workout we sat around the gym polishing off some beer and cider left over from the gym owner’s picnic the day prior. Sitting around with that group of friends recounting what we’d all just been through was very special.

So yeah, in my workout log this will go down as my first solo Murph. And yes, I did all the reps and took all the steps on my own. In my head and in my heart, I know that I was never working alone.