Karen Murphy took part in her first multisport event in 2017 and, in the five years since, she’s been crowned European champion three times and won world gold, all achieved amongst the backdrop of the pandemic over the past two years.
This weekend Murphy will line-up on the start line of the British Duathlon Championships at Oulton Park, four months after becoming world duathlon champion in the F50-54 age group.
“That was absolutely a dream come true,” Murphy said when reflecting on her gold from Aviles, Spain last November. “It’s something that I really, really wanted but you kind of rein yourself in because so few people become world champion, but I absolutely worked my socks off for that competition, I got myself into really good shape.
“I stood on the start line knowing that I could only control what I bring to the start line, not what the other girls had and how fit they’re going to be. Standing on the start line, I knew it was all or nothing, I was never going to go for a safe race. By 5k into the first run I was thinking ‘oh my god, I’m not sure I can hang onto this’, but you just do and I absolutely pushed myself.
“I didn’t even know when I crossed the line that I had won. It wasn’t until my friend came over and looked at the app and went ‘you’ve got gold’, so that was such a special moment and a dream come true. Even if it doesn’t happen again, I feel privileged to have had that opportunity and that result.”
Over the winter months, the 54-year-old went from the high of winning gold to a winter slump, but, having found the enjoyment again, Murphy will arrive at Sunday’s British Duathlon Championships with renewed motivation.
“I came back from the worlds on a massive high and then you hit a low,” Murphy said. “There was a point where I was actually less motivated to train because you’ve worked so hard for something for so long and then you achieve it, you’re like where do I go now?
“The training I do, I have to make myself really, really hurt and there has to be a motivation to do it. A few months out, I turned it around and I’m back on it again. I’m now really, really motivated to go to Targu Mures [host of 2022 World Duathlon Championships] this year and defend my title.
“The British Championships will be an opportunity to see where I am because I’m working quite hard at the moment to get myself in shape for the World Duathlon Champs in June. But I’m looking forward to racing at Oulton Park as it’s somewhere I’ve never competed before.”
Oulton Park was a venue Murphy had planned to race at last year when the 2021 British Duathlon Championships were held at the motor racing circuit last October, but uncertainty around fuel led to Murphy not attending.
“I actually booked to do the race at Oulton Park last year but because of the fuel crisis, and I’m down south in London, my husband and I agreed it was too much of a risk to go up there, run out of fuel and then not be able to find anywhere to fill up and get back home again. So I’m really looking forward to giving the circuit a go because I have never ridden on it before or done an event there,” Murphy added.
“I’m not sure what shape I’m in, this will be my first duathlon back since the worlds, so I have no idea how to pace it, how fit I am but I’m going to find out. One thing you’ll always get from me is you’ll get the best that I can give on the day.”
It’s an ethos that has seen Murphy represent the Great Britain Age-Group Team at multiple international events; the first in Rotterdam in 2017, just a few months after first getting involved in multisport through a local GO TRI event.
“I came to it quite late,” Murphy said. “I come from an athletics background, and I got injured doing the marathon one year and decided in my wisdom that I wanted to learn to swim.
“I used to drop my kids off at swimming and then I used to go for a run, but when I couldn’t go for a run because of my injury, I was watching the kids swimming up and down and I thought you know what I want to learn how to do that so I went to my local club and they had an adult swim session where they taught adults to swim.
“By coincidence, at the same time, Kat Berry joined our run club who was a really good triathlete and has gone onto be my coach and mentor, and she said to me ‘you should do a triathlon’ so I did a GO TRI, absolutely loved it, and it’s gone from there.”