COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Daryl Murphy has been a runner for most of his life – but really, he’s had two completely different running lives.
It all started in middle school. Murphy’s older sister was an excellent track athlete, and he wanted to be like her. Then in high school, he added cross country to his repertoire.
“I didn’t even have running shoes,” he said with a laugh. “I was running in like basketball Jordans for the whole time, so that was pretty interesting.”
Clearly, that didn’t hold him back. Murphy, now a digital account executive at NBC4, ran throughout his time at Reynoldsburg High School and then ran three years in college. It was at that point he got burnt out.
“I was like, I’m done running. I don’t want to run any more,” Murphy said. “So I took a seven-, eight-year hiatus from running and never ran a mile.”
Then, the spring of 2020 hit, and the COVID-19 pandemic changed everyone’s life, including Murphy’s. He found himself stuck in his home – except for one activity.
“The only time I could get outside was to go for a run,” he said. “So I just started going out every day outside for a run to get out. Fresh air was great for my mental health.”
As a result, Murphy’s mentality about running changed drastically.
“After a while when you’re running every single day and your body isn’t getting a rest, you can’t continue to run hard or run fast all the time. So I had to use some slower days for rest days,” he said. “Then I realized, ‘Wow, these slower days are my favorite days out of any day I’m running!’ So then I realized why don’t I just run slow more often and run for enjoyment more often. And that’s how [the run streak] started.”
Without even trying, Murphy ran 14 days in a row. Then, a friend challenged him to run 30 days straight – so he did.
When he hit the 50-day mark, the physical fatigue set in, and he thought the streak would end there. It didn’t.
“Mentally, I was like, ‘I do really want to keep doing this, but I didn’t have a real reason to keep doing it.’ And that’s how the Miles for Justice came about, and I actually had a reason to continue the run streak,” he said.
That was in late May, early June of 2020 – after the murder of George Floyd, a Black 46-year-old Black, by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin took the country by storm. Daryl wanted to get involved, he just wasn’t sure how.
Then, another murder came to light: in Georgia, two men, with the assistance of a third, shot and killed the Black 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery while he was out for a run.
“I just really saw myself in him,” Murphy, who is Black, said. “What could happen to me when I’m out there running? Or who else could this happen to?”
So he began “Miles For Justice” – a way to raise money and donate the funds to social justice organizations.
“So I call it a 5K for $5K,” Murphy said. “The first 5K, we raised it on behalf of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. The second 5K, we raised it for Breonna Taylor.”
Murphy donated the money raised from those first two projects to the Grassroots Law Project and Until Freedom, he said. For his third project, he wanted to do something a little more hands-on.
“We raised money and we put Little Free Libraries in the community and filled them with books that were representative of people in those communities,” he said.
Now, Murphy is working on his fourth campaign — the most unique of the projects he’s done. Instead of raising money, he’s running to raise awareness.
“We’re advocating for a man who has been wrongfully incarcerated for 27 years,” he said.
The inmate is Dewitt McDonald Jr, who is in prison for a 1994 drive by shooting in Sandusky. In March of this year, Erie County Common Pleas Court Judge Tygh Tone issued an order for McDonald’s immediate release. Then in May, the judge reversed his decision.
“We are just trying to raise awareness on [McDonald’s] behalf. We are sending letters to the Ohio Attorney General and the Ohio Governor. So right now, I think we are over 500 letters sent,” Daryl said. “That’s what the Miles for Justice 4 campaign is — for him.”
For Murphy, running used to be all about work; now, he uses it to work for others, and that brings him joy.
And he’s done that for 765 straight days (as of publication of this story.)
For more information about the Miles For Justice initiative, visit its website or its Instagram account @miles4justice.