He used to be the heavy kid who became the target for plenty of giggling and teasing.
Even when he reached adulthood, he couldn’t shake the stigma of obesity.
Finally, six years ago, a close-to-300-pound Tyler Murphy decided enough was enough.
With the help of a friend, he took up running and in a matter of months turned himself into a 23-minute 5K runner.
Oh, and he lost more than 100 pounds along the way.
So who’s laughing now?
Well, in all honesty, people still chuckle when the Langhorne resident is around, but the big difference is they’re laughing WITH him, not AT him.
You see, the 51-year-old Murphy has perhaps the funniest, most irreverent sense of humor in the Bucks County adult running community.
His jokes, often self-effacing, bring smiles to the most hardened/all-business runners. It’s just what a gathering of striders need when they start taking themselves a little too seriously.
The lifelong Langhorne resident has worked his way all the way up to the Philadelphia Marathon and beyond, eventually taking on the biggest challenge of all, the ultramarathon.
“Murph’’ is an inspiration for anyone who has ever put on too much weight and thought taking it off was a lost cause.
In a recent telephone conversation, he explained how the transformation all came about.
“I had young kids, I was complacent and I really wasn’t doing anything physical,’’ said Murphy, a teacher at Pennridge High School in Perkasie. “I always liked to joke that the only thing I used to run after was the ice cream truck!’’
See, that’s a pretty good one.
“I weighed myself, it said 288 and I said I’m never getting on a scale again,’’ he said. “I started the ‘Couch to 5K’ program. That’s how I initially got into running and ran for a couple years. Then I kind of hit a plateau.’’
As it turns out, one of his students, Ryan Sterling, helped him take the next step. The young man had an interest in the study of fitness and training.
“I said if you’re really interested in training someone, I could probably be the worst test-case possible,’’ Murphy said. “He told me you have to commit. Now, he’s a student at the University of Vermont’s law school. We just bonded from this friendship from it. He would make a plan, put it in a Google box – I would run three days a week, go to the gym three days a week. In less than five months in 2015, I lost 50 pounds. And the total eventually became over 100.’’
It only got better from there. Murphy had never been much athletic as a child, for obvious reasons, but now he had unlocked the door to a whole new world of speed and self-esteem.
At one point he got all the way down to 173 pounds. If only those childhood detractors could see him now.
“It (the drastic weight loss) didn’t seem like a big thing at the time but my head was in the right place to do it,’’ he said. “I was always the fat kid. My mom was like the mom who, if you fell and skinned your knee, you got pudding. We were all emotional eaters that way.’’
Sometimes it takes a wake-up moment to turn things around.
“I remember I was about 42 years old,’’ Murphy said. “I was at the beach and I saw my shadow. I kind of looked like Alfred Hitchcock. I showed someone a photo at school and they were like, ‘my God!’ I was like, ‘I know!’ That’s when I started Couch to 5K. Then I ran my first 5K, the Newtown 5K.’’
Murphy is a Lower Bucks Christian Academy graduate and later received a degree from Messiah University.
During those years he developed a knack for his patented one-liners.
“It’s a way to be with the crowd and feel you’re engaging and entertaining,’’ he said. “It was a survival technique growing up. I would say (now) that running breaks you down. All the stuff you think is important to yourself or build yourself up as, whenever you’re out on a long run, that dismantles all that crap.’’
The clock can be unforgiving, especially in the latter stages of a race.
“I feel like I am the man I am today simply because I run,’’ he said.
In the classroom, he shows students his “before and after’ ’shot and they can’t believe the before photo is really him.
Of course, improved diet and better rest habits played a part in this renaissance – all part of his new running lifestyle.
And instead of worrying about what he ate, he became more diligent about how much he ate. Smaller plates, smaller servings, smaller calorie intake.
In recent years, Murphy has become even more involved with the running lifestyle by starting an apparel company, “RunBro,’’ along with friend Tim Kelly, a fellow Pennridge teacher. Occasionally they would run together after school. It sort of started as a lark but now the movement has a national following.
“RunBro, that’s what we would call each other,’’ Murphy said. “Once I said ‘I think we could make shirts and sell them.’ We could get people on social media in and it would be a fun thing. Now are there are 250 people from 30 states represented.’’
Murphy says he would not be the runner he is today without the support of the Bucks County Roadrunners. He’s struck up many friendships there and no doubt the interactions with the club have made him a better performer.
So what’s the message to come out of his amazing evolution from couch potato to 50K ultramarathoner?
“For me, I would say it’s never too late to start,’’ Murphy said. “I didn’t start until I was in my forties. I think some people think they’ve missed their opportunity. But there’s always another one. They just have to make it.’’
Bucks County Roadrunners Winter Series Wild Card (4-6 Miler), 9 a.m., Tyler State Park, Newtown. Contact www.bcrrclub.com