Susanna Murphy is busy. Insanely, time-consumingly, exhaustingly busy. Does she wish she wasn’t? Not for a second.
Susanna Murphy is a star triathlete. A rising star, actually, coming somewhat late to the sport. But what a rise it’s been.
Murphy started out more than 10 years ago as a swimmer, representing Ireland several times at an international level.
After enjoying great success globally, Murphy retired from the sport at the age of 24, choosing instead to focus on a burgeoning career.
But once an athlete, always an athlete.
“After retiring from swimming, and trying to concentrate on my career and education, I started to set a few goals for myself, in terms of trying to keep fit. I would just jump into a marathon, train for a marathon,” says Murphy.
Running gave her a release and reminded her of her love of swimming. She began training as an open-water swimmer and, in 2011, she completed a solo swim of the Channel.
From there, and ticking two of the three boxes, it was almost inevitable that Murphy start competing in triathlons.
It began simply enough
In June of 2014, Murphy won a 5km race in Killiney, Dublin. After the race, Kevin Thornton – a professional triathlete, and a personal friend of Murphy’s – encouraged her to get in touch with Éanna McGrath of Base2Race and make the transition to triathlons.
After speaking to McGrath – who now coaches her – Murphy decided to take the leap.
From there, her involvement in triathlons has been a baptism of fire, with everything starting suddenly and happening all at once.
A gruelling training schedule – two hours of swim training every morning before work, at least two hours of biking or running in the evening, and weekends full of four-tofive-hour bike rides – and a full work day might have taken their toll, but Murphy contradicts that.
“It’s just been this incredible year – an incredibly tough year, trying to manage work and supporting what I’ve been doing, but so fulfilling as well because I think they’ve complemented each other very well,” she says.
Murphy works at Dropbox in mid-market sales, selling Dropbox for Business, Dropbox’s enterprise solution. She speaks to companies, day in and day out, about how they can become more efficient, something, she says, that overlaps in an interesting way with her triathlete training:
“Everything in my life is all about efficiency. I have to get everything done in 24 hrs.”
The two disciplines – working and training – complement each other in that way, and others.
“I’ve always been a really driven person, in work and in normal life. I set myself targets and goals, and that’s very similar to what I do here in Dropbox.”
And, to Murphy, Dropbox has been instrumental in her success as a triathlete.
Everything, she says, from the food to the work-life balance have helped her get to the stage she’s at. Dropbox’s catering has helped her as she works towards her target weight, while the company’s approach to flexible hours means she can fit her work day around her training schedule.
Murphy speaks about approaching Dropbox – once her potential as a triathlete could no longer be denied – to ask about changing her schedule.
Not expecting a favourable response at the time, Murphy still sounds awed when she talks about Dropbox’s response:
“There wasn’t even a question. It was like, ‘This is an incredible opportunity. Do it’.”
It may sound surprising from someone who’s swum the channel and won races on an international level, but her work at Dropbox is a big part of what Murphy is proudest of in life – her happiness.
“I’ve probably never been happier in my life than I am now, because I feel as if Dropbox has allowed me to reach for my goals outside of Dropbox. That’s huge! Very few companies would allow you to do that.”
Of course, Dropbox isn’t Murphy’s only support system. “I have four amazing things in my life,” she says. “My amazing family, my amazing fiancé, sport and Dropbox.”
Murphy can’t lay enough credit at the feet of her fiancé, Ronan Cunningham. Murphy calls him her rock, saying that his patience astounds her.
Putting up with her moods and tiredness would be enough, she says, but the fact that he is so accepting of her commitment to the triathlete circuit is huge.
The couple has postponed their wedding for a year to allow Murphy to take full advantage of the opportunities in front of her – something Ronan has taken entirely in stride.
What’s next for Susanna Murphy
Murphy has caught the eye of Triathlon Ireland, and is once more racing internationally.
Her success in her latest race – only her second international race, two weeks ago – brought her her first ITU (International Triathlon Union) points, meaning she is now world-ranked and qualifies for bigger, better international events.
So what’s next?
For now, Murphy is content with her life and happier than she remembers ever being. She feels immensely fortunate to have found a job and a pursuit that are so fulfilling, and which challenge her to always strive to be better.
But she knows she won’t be able to rest on her laurels for long – it’s not in her nature. So far, she’s taking it day by day, and just hoping to get the next race under her belt.
‘I’m looking at the kinds of races where I’ll be racing again with the top people in the world, and really seeing where I’m at’
– SUSANNA MURPHY
But that’s not where it ends.
Having qualified for an ITU world cup event, Murphy is bound for far sunnier climes:
“There are a number of races in October that I’m looking at racing, and they’re much further afield. You know, maybe looking at as far as Mexico, South Korea… those kinds of races where I’ll be racing again with the top people in the world, and really seeing where I’m at.”
Her next goal is to find more sponsorship, so she can get to those far-flung events.
What comes through most clearly when speaking to Murphy is how amazingly humble she’s somehow managed to stay. In spite of being an elite athlete and working at Dropbox – a “bloody rockstar company”, as she puts it – she still stays grounded, and acknowledges her privilege.
“I feel like I’m a chancer half the time,” she says early on.
Talking to her for even a short while, it’s clear that couldn’t be further from the truth.
To track Susanna Murphy’s amazing triathlon adventure, follow her on twitter @supersmurph.