By Brian Hagberg
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
Six years ago, Sam Bessinger put everyone competing in The Murph fitness challenge at Schriever Air Force Base on notice he would be the man to beat, breaking the base record by 90 seconds, his first time competing.
Bessinger would go on to break his own record by 44 seconds the following year, then put on the performance of a lifetime in 2012 when he set the current base record at 23:11, besting his mark from the previous year by five minutes.
“I think when it comes to The Murph, the thing that people have the hardest time with are the pull-ups,” Bessinger said. “I was never extremely athletic in one category but just [good] overall, and with the pull-ups especially.”
He cruised to claim the title again in 2013. During this streak no competitor finished within four minutes of his time, until last year. First-time competitors Justin Long and Chris Metzgar both came within two minutes of Bessinger’s time, Long just 1:27 behind.
Heading into this year’s competition Friday, the focus turns to whether one of those two, or a new challenger, can dethrone The Murph’s most consistently dominant competitor.
“I think about [getting beat] more than I should,” Bessinger said. “I still have to go out there and represent and take it to them, but I definitely have the butterflies.”
Metzgar, who trains for The Murph at the gym he owns in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said he learned last year which areas he needs to hold back and when he needs to go all out.
“[The Murph] is about pacing yourself and finding the right pace to be able to finish strong,” Metzgar said. “Bessinger ran the miles faster than I did, but I did the actual work faster. Last year, my last mile was close to nine minutes and that’s where I lost my time.”
What makes this rivalry more intense is the fact that Bessinger and Metzgar are both part of the 50th Space Communications Squadron and compete in other athletic endeavors as well.
“I went to his gym to wrestle him because he wrestles and does jujitsu and I thought I’d take him out,” Bessinger said. “I wanted to take it to him, but he tossed me around that gym like nobody’s business.”
Bessinger claimed Metzgar has tried to sabotage his training for The Murph by secretly leaving boxes of Milk Duds, Bessinger’s “kryptonite,” on his desk, knowing he’ll be unable to resist.
“I know he has a sweet tooth, but no comment,” Metzgar said laughing in response to the claims of sabotage. “I think he’s just mad because he came to my gym and I beat him.”
Joking aside, both competitors feel they have something to prove at this year’s competition.
Bessinger said he thought last year’s event might have been his last here at Schriever and wants to send a message to all present and future competitors.
“I thought last year would be my last event and Chris and Major Long were really close [to my time],” he said. “I was thinking I wanted to stay one more time to just really nail it home that Sam Bessinger is the best ever.”
Bessinger acknowledged there may be another participant able to take his title, but he emphasized that Metzgar would not be the one to do it.
“I know Major Long’s in very good shape, Chris is like 45 years old but he’s in fantastic shape too and I know they’re going to bring it,” Bessinger said. “As far as Chris goes though, there’s no way he’s going to beat me. I can’t let that happen, no matter what.”
Metzgar, who will actually turn 40 this year, is simply looking to prove something to his younger rival.
“I think we’re equal body weight, equal size but he does have me on age,” he said. “I’m turning 40 and I have something to prove so I’ve got to beat this young guy.”
Metzgar might have a slight advantage going in to the event because his start time is in the afternoon while Bessinger starts in the morning, meaning Metzgar will know exactly what time he needs to beat.
“I actually wanted to compete against him head-to-head because I think he’s intimidated by me a little bit,” Metzgar said. “They originally had us scheduled at the same time, but changed it so I’ll be after him. I don’t mind that because then I can find out what the times were.”
Metzgar said he thinks this year’s winner will need to finish in less than 25 minutes. Bessinger said he’s looking to duplicate his time from last year, 24:20, and gave one final warning to anyone who thinks they can beat him.
“I think I’m going to try to duplicate my time from last year, but if I’m here next year I’m going to go for 21 minutes,” he said. “If they’re going to have a chance [to beat me], it’s this year. You guys better be ready.”
The Murph is an athletic competition named after U.S. Navy Lt. Michael Murphy, who created the workout, but was later killed in action while serving in Afghanistan. The Murph consists of a 1-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups and 300 body squats, followed by another 1-mile run. The event will take place at the fitness center Friday.