When Daryl Murphy wrapped up a 5K alongside a group of runners outside of Third Way Cafe on Sunday, it marked the 1,000th consecutive day the Reynoldsburg native had run at least 3.1 miles.
Murphy’s streak started in earnest on April 14, 2020, when a friend challenged him to run a 5K every day for 30 days. “I was like, nah, I’m not gonna do that. That’s crazy. I’m gonna need to take days off,” Murphy said in an early January interview. “So I wasn’t even trying to do it, but then I got to 14 days, and it was like, okay, wow, maybe I can get to 30."
It helped, of course, that the challenge coincided with the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, when daily runs offered Murphy the opportunity to spend time outside of the Los Angeles home to which he had started to feel confined. Under these conditions, Murphy quickly reached 30 days, at which point he decided to keep going. And then Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd on May 25, 2020.
“When that happened, I was coming up on 50 days, and I wanted to keep going, but I needed a purpose behind it. It had to be more than just going for a run every day,” said Murphy, who lived in Los Angeles for eight years before moving back to Reynoldsburg in early 2021 to be closer to family. “I saw how people all over the country were organizing protests and I started to ask how I could do something positive related to that energy. And then I thought about how people hold these big races to raise money for cancer, to raise money for all of these other initiatives, and I was like, maybe I can use running to raise money for social justice.”
On June 1, 2020, Murphy launched Miles for Justice, transforming his daily practice into an ongoing campaign that to this point has raised more than $20,000 for charities including Until Freedom, the Grassroots Law Project and Little Free Library, with Murphy’s donation helping to establish a half-dozen Little Free Libraries in underserved communities in New York City.
“And then we filled the libraries with books that were representative of the people in those communities,” Murphy said. “A couple of them were in heavily Spanish neighborhoods, so we put in Spanish-language books. Others were in neighborhoods with heavily Black populations, so we put in books with Black characters by Black authors. When people are reading, it can be a mirror, you know what I mean? So they’re seeing themselves represented in the literature.”
While running allowed Murphy to focus resources on social justice causes, it also allowed him a temporary escape from these same realities. “Running is a form of therapy for me,” he said. “All the turmoil in the world, all the stress in the world, it goes away when I put my headphones on and run.”
Of course, any social justice movement that endures for more than two years can struggle to maintain momentum. And Murphy allowed that there were times during the streak when it felt less like Miles for Justice than simply logging miles. This is part of the reason he attended a recent press conference held by activists seeking justice for Sinzae Reed, a 13-year-old Black child shot and killed by Krieg Butler, 36, outside of Wedgewood Village on the city’s West Side.
“Going to that Sinzae protest, it was important for me to get back connected with why I started this, to the root of it,” said Murphy, who ran track at Reynoldsburg High School. “Doing this, it can go through waves, and personally I’ve been feeling disconnected from the ‘justice’ part of Miles for Justice. So, when I see people in the community creating action, taking action, it invigorates me.”
Similar waves of engagement can seep into the runs themselves, which occasionally blur into seemingly endless stretches of concrete, asphalt and trails. But some days do stand out, such as the time Murphy pushed himself to reach 20 miles – a benchmark he had never reached and for which he was wholly unprepared. “I had no water, no nutrition,” he said. “I probably got to mile 18 and I didn’t think I was going to finish the other two. I was shaking and just like, damn, I really screwed up. … I thought I was going to have to call an Uber.”
Another time, the streak was jeopardized when Murphy pulled a quad muscle. “I tried to run the next day and I couldn’t even take two steps,” Murphy said of the injury, which occurred in December 2020. “I started to cry a little bit, like, man, the streak’s over. … But then I decided I would go out and try to walk the 5K, and when I got a mile in, [the injury] started to loosen up, and I was able to start jogging. Like, it was almost at a walking pace, but it was a jogging motion.”
Generally, though, Murphy said the most memorable runs are those in which he is joined by fellow members of the community, such as the time his cousin joined him to run the 5K Pump & Run at the 2022 Arnold Sports Festival. “He’s a pretty big guy, and that was the first 5K of his life, so it was pretty remarkable,” said Murphy, who logs the details of each run in a journal, jotting down the distance, time and, more recently, a sentence or two describing the day’s circumstances. “And now he’s on a crazy fitness journey himself.”
After reaching the once-unthinkable benchmark of 1,000 consecutive days running at least a 5k, Murphy has no plans to slow down, noting that he’s already creeping close to the three-year mark. “And once I get there, I’ll probably start thinking about getting to five years,” he said. “It’s funny, when I got to 365 days, it was like, 'I can’t stop, or I have to start over.' And then I hit two years, and it was like, 'I can’t stop now. I need to get to 1,000.' … It kind of is like going down the rabbit hole, and then you just keep going and going.”