St. Ignatius’ Ciaran Murphy running down CCS dreams

In the moments leading up to every race, St. Ignatius senior Ciaran Murphy is constantly fighting a battle — with

“I get pretty nervous and put a lot of pressure on myself,” he said. “Often times I’ll psyche myself out of the race.”

Murphy certainly didn’t take himself out of the prestigious Stanford Invitational on March 30, when he finished second in the mile run — which is 1,609 meters — in 4:16.26. Murphy’s time in the mile converts to a 4:14.77 in the 1,600 meters, ranking him first and 10th, respectively, in the Central Coast Section and state.   

“When I crossed the finish line at Stanford, I had no idea I beat my PR [personal record] by three seconds,” said Murphy, who has committed to running both cross country and track at Boston College. “I had no idea how fast I could go.”

St. Ignatius track distance coach Nick Alvarado certainly did.

“When Ciaran has the right mindset and is feeling alright, there’s no telling what he can do,” Alvarado said. “He’s extremely talented, something I saw when he was a sophomore. He’s a born runner in that he’s naturally very quick and has a strong aerobic capacity.”

But talent alone can’t explain why Murphy was able to finish ninth in the Division III race of the CIF state cross-country championships in November, or why he’s on the verge of a breakthrough in the 1,600 at the CCS track and field championships a month from now. Murphy finished a disappointing sixth in last year’s finals, and what bothered Murphy the most was he didn’t run his race.

“Running is a genuine passion of mine, and all of my motivation comes from how much I love the sport,” he said. “I didn’t run my race in the CCS finals. I want to improve on the biggest passion in my life.”

The first step in that process revolves around strengthening Murphy’s sometimes fragile mental makeup — “Ciaran is a real thinker, and sometimes he overanalyzes a race,” Alvarado said — so Murphy has focused on thinking less and letting his legs do all the talking.

“Once the gun goes off, the huge pit in my stomach is gone,” Murphy said. “I go into game mode, and I’m like a different person.”

Even though Murphy hasn’t mastered the mental part of the sport, he feels he has excelled in the physical aspects of it. There have been a couple of instances in Murphy’s burgeoning running career in which he’s overcome physical adversity, and he draws upon those experiences to stay strong during a race.

“I think gutting out pain has been a huge strength of mine,” he said.

Murphy is counting on having that resolve and then some a month from now.

“Winning CCS would be the biggest accomplishment in my running career,” he said.

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