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The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)
Dripping sweat and sporting weighted vests, they squatted, pulled and pushed.
The Memorial Day workout was on the whiteboard at CrossFit Oceana off Oceana Boulevard: 100 pullups, 200 pushups and 300 squats, bookended by 1-mile runs.
The gym was crowded and loud as music blared. The reason for all of it was a fallen Navy SEAL, Lt. Michael Murphy of New York, who died in combat in Afghanistan in 2005.
On June 28 of that year, Murphy was leading a SEAL team in Afghanistan when a gun battle broke out with Taliban fighters, according to a biography on the Lt. Michael P. Murphy Memorial Scholarship Foundation website. Gaining position to transmit a call for help, Murphy exposed himself to enemy gunfire and was shot and later died.
"Michael always seemed to do the right thing at the right time for the right reason," his father, Dan Murphy, said in a phone interview last week. Education was important to Michael Murphy, and his family created the foundation in 2007 to award scholarships in his name.
To raise money for the foundation and honor Murphy's memory, CrossFit gyms across the nation have participated in the annual Murph Challenge on Memorial Day.
"I try and remind everyone it's not about Michael. It's about all our fallen," Dan Murphy said. "Michael wouldn't like it if it were all about him."
CrossFit began as a way to train people in law enforcement and the military and has spread to the general public because of its effectiveness, said CrossFit Oceana owner Tina Degiorgio, also a longtime chiropractor in Virginia Beach. Every Saturday, gym members participate in "hero WODs," or "workouts of the day" that honor specific fallen service members.
On Monday morning, trainer Sarah Morningstar gathered with the third heat of Murph Challenge participants. More than 100 would complete the challenge by morning's end, with many more at other gyms.
During the challenge, women wear 14-pound vests, and men wear 20 pounds, though anyone can scale their workouts to match their abilities.
"The small amount of pain we're going through is nothing compared to what Michael Murphy or his family felt," Morningstar told the crowd. "While it might be painful, while you might cry - do it."
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Max Crews, 28, said his introduction to CrossFit was with the Murph Challenge a few years ago, when his friend wanted to complete it before deploying to Afghanistan.
"I've been trying to learn more about (Murphy's) story," Crews said. "It's kind of awesome to get together with the community and suffer through this."
Jona Riggle, 35, and Anja Linka, 39, encouraged friends and took photos after completing the challenge.
"Obviously, it hurts when we're working this hard, but what gets me through is … I can suffer through an hourlong workout in remembrance" of fallen service members, Linka said.
Lauren Balogh, 31, walked up with bloodied, calloused hands.
She had several reps to go when the skin started to tear, she said, but she pushed through.
"When I was running back, all I thought was: 'He suffered. I can make it, one more step,' " Balogh said. "It's not just about him, but everyone who's died."
Riggle said despite the pain, she's thankful Americans "are free enough to actually do this," thanks to people like Murphy.
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