We are at Port Macquarie at the site of Ironman Australia to talk to the man whose job it is to call home all the Ironmen , Pete Murray.
Roxii: G’day Pete.
PM: G’day Roxii.
Roxii: I suppose the way we perceive you now is the new voice of Ironman, which is a big title to take over. So for those that don’t know Pete Murray how and why did you get in to triathlon in the first place?
PM: I first got into triathlon in 1986 in Port Macquarie, they had a big triathlon here back in the day, it was one of the best Olympic races around. I was originally a surf ironman with a surf club background and I really enjoyed it but I saw the challenge of a triathlon as something different. So I took on the challenge then I really loved. So I went from there. A couple of years later in 1998 Port Macquarie hosted the Ampol series, so I competed in that and had a good result as a junior and then I got some sponsorship locally and got on board, travelled around and followed some of the races and I really just enjoyed it. I was something different for me, and yeah I just took it on board.
Roxii: My first memory of the name Peter Murray was in the Ironman awards night before meltdown when they would show the highlights and your name was often mentioned as either first local out of the water or the first overall out of the water, was the swim really your strength.
PM: Yeah the swim was my strength, I got my fifteen minutes of fame and I soaked that up as much as I could , because I knew that once I was out the water , I mean I was OK on the bike , but I was too big a bloke to run. It was just the appeal of it, it was so much fun and I got to meet a lot of people and since then they are still lifelong friends, guys like Welchy and the Southwell brothers in particular, I’m very close with those guys.
Roxii: Is that a good thing or a bad thing LOL.
PM: (Laughs) yeah I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing, but we are still really good mates and we keep in touch a lot. Tim Ahern, Bruce Thomas, some of the names from the past Brad Bevan of course, but yeah I just loved it doing short course. But I remember in 1991 coming home from University in Newcastle I called in at Forster on Ironman day and I remember standing on the sideline going “I’m going to do that next year.” So that was in the days when you didn’t have to qualify you just put your entry in in June and in 1992 I did my first ever Ironman, it was one of the best days ever and I still remember it.
Roxii: So why did you make the switch to commentating and why did you give away the racing.
PM: I thought I had done what I wanted to do, I was never super competitive , maybe top 5 or 10 % of my age group so after 13 Ironmans, 10 at Forster, 2 at Hawaii and New Zealand I thought I’d had enough , and by chance when Port Macquarie hosted the Australian Long Course Championships I was meant to race, but I was sick that day so Peter Bekerleg who was the guru commentator back then and is one of my great friends still, he is the man that got me into it. He said “Do you want to give me a hand commentating?” I said “Yeah, I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m used to talking a bit of shit anyway, I’ll get up there!” And so sue enough at that stage IMG had just taken over, and a man called Dallas O’Brien who was in charge of IMG. He said “I like what you do, we are man down at IMWA 2005 do you want to come over and just be a backup for our guys.” I thought “Yeah I’ve got nothing to lose!” So I went over there and that was the start of the commentating career.
A guy called Kerry Stubbs, he was one of my best mates and he was running some races in Tasmania at that stage so he saw me at WA and said can you come over in January, then met guys from Melbourne, Shepparton… each race I went to people liked what I did and kind of just built up to where I am today.
Roxii: So how good is it having Ironman in your home town?
PM: Mate, I get to travel 25 times a year, around New Zealand, Australia and Asia, but it’s just like paradise here in Port Macquarie, I get to sleep at home, see the family more often, and Im just so proud to have it here in Port Macquarie. I’ve seen it virtually build up from scratch after it left Forster, which was a shame, but I’m glad it’s here in Port Macquarie which is so close to Forster, which to me still is the spiritual home of Ironman.
Roxii: I’ve seen on a few of your Facebook posts that Ironman is getting involved with the local community a bit and doing some stuff with the schools too, what has been your involvement in that?
PM: Yeah, I’ve got a bike education programme called “Wheely Safe” and with Ironman Asia Pacific we have been really trying to target schools in Ironman areas, so Port Macquarie was our first target zone, we hit heavily the schools down in Camden Haven to show a bit of community spirit down there, the bottom end of the course is down there and it doesn’t get a lot of attention. Everyone thinks Ironman Port Macquarie is Juts about Port Macquarie but it’s not, it’s also about the whole district, and Camden Haven is a part of that district. We’ve been down there doing a lot of promotions with bike safety but we have also developed the program for IronKids, where the kids get out at school on their home trainers and run around the hall and have a lot of fun. We’ve got the whole “You are an Ironkid” thing going on and we are hoping on Saturday that we have another great turnout of Ironkids at Port Macquarie.
Roxii: How good is it to sit up there in the commentary box and get to tell people they are an Ironman?
PM: I suppose I take it for granted a bit because it’s my job, but I love my job. I remember when I raced those ten times at Forster, Mike Reilly was on the microphone , and it was just a buzz to hear Mike or anybody say “You are an Ironman”, because you put so much time and effort into the training and those four words mean so much. So my job is to try to make everyone’s finish line experience so special, because as you know, when you race Ironman, it’s a special story to get to the start line, you have a lot of family, friends, club-mates out there, and then if I can just make that one special moment at the finish line then my job is done.
Roxii: I remember there was a time when Mike Reilly wasn’t always at Ironman and people used to get disappointed not to get called and Ironman by Mike but that has changed a bit now and people are quite happy to have Pete Murray call them an Ironman , so that must be pretty special.
PM: (Laughs) I don’t know about that. Mate, Mike Reilly without a doubt he is a guru, and a lot of people ask me how I feel about Mike Reilly. To me Mike Reilly is like a gold pass. First of all we get along really well, which is great and he has given me a lot of opportunities. I talk about Peter Bekerleg, he got me started, but Mike Reilly keeps me going. Last year I was in Hawaii, on Hot Corner, had it all to myself, we called it Aussie corner; there was like a thousand Aussies there which was great. But to answer the question, I don’t think I do anything special, I feel embarrassed sometimes when people stop me at airports or in the street just recently, saying “you didn’t call me an Ironman, but I want to hear it” so I feel like a bit of an idiot, and a dickhead doing it in the streets, but that’s how it is I’ve just got to accept that . But Mikes the guru, no doubt about it, till he calls it a day I’m happy to play second fiddle.
Roxii: In 2008 my last race you called me across the line, and my bio had that I “had overcome a disabling lack of talent” and my occupation was “Fortune cookie writer”, are there many other idiots out there and what other stupid things do you have to contend with?
PM: Mate, you know what us triathletes are like, it’s all about them, they love the attention, they train hard but we all love having a good time, at the end of the day you cross the line, you get your medal , you are an Ironman but it’s great to have a lot of fun with the athletes, the way they come down the finish line and my job is to help make it fun, make it memorable for these guys. Pole dancers are always there, male model, stuff like that, but that’s what it’s about Roxii, Ironman isn’t just a race, Ironman is a personal challenge and if you can have fun while doing that challenge it makes it all the more worthwhile.
Roxii: Is there a standout moment in your commentating career?
PM: Obviously Hawaii, after racing there twice and knowing it’s the holy grail of our sport, to be on the commentating team over there was certainly a highlight. But I can honestly say, and I mean this 100%, every Ironman I go to is special, because I see 1500 plus people every race with a special story, the emotion, the tears, the cheers it’s what it’s all about, I really can say that every race that I go to is different and I love it. I love meeting people and welcoming them home.
Roxii: We see the “glamourous” side of the commentating gig, but it must be a bit of a grind at times. How much time are you spending away from home these days?
PM: Ironman Asia Pacific have given me a dream job, you know at the moment we have got a great relationship, they have given me the opportunity to travel around Australia New Zealand and Asia but probably the most demanding part of my job is two things. One is the time away from my family, I’ve got a young family , I’m away up to 25 times a year, sometimes they do travel with me to races but often it’s just not practical, so that’s the worst thing, the other is that I really don’t get to see a lot of these destination. I literally drop in on a Thursday night, work all day Friday, Saturday, Sunday and out if town the next morning. So it’s a rush but that’s part of the jib and I’m happy with that, the less time I’m away the more time I have with the family and they have been very supportive of me, my wife has given me the opportunity to go away and do something that I like and at the moment I’m kickin’ some goals and it seems to be working so as long as it keeps working I’m happy and so is the family.
Roxii: So with all that spare time you have on your hands (laughs!) what else does Peter Murray get up to?
PM: Mate, I’ve got a great little learn to swim business, I love working with kids,
Roxii: You are not going to claim Magnussen are you?
PM: No, my only claim to fame with Jimmy Magnussen is swimming in the lane next to him where he probably does 2k to my 1k, but Jimmy is a great bloke. But away from triathlon I have the learn to swim school that I love, and we have just developed a bike education programme called Wheely Safe Kids, stay tuned because it’s coming out throughout Australia, and obviously time with the family and staying at home. I used to love going away every weekend, going out all the time, but now I can’t get any more satisfaction than staying home having a couple of beers with my mates, family and friends come round for a barbie and playing with the kids, that’s what I do now.
Roxii: So does the “occasional beer” help the quality of the voice?
PM: Mate, my voice is husky 90% of the time, but I try now and be more professional which is reflective of the job I have been given, Ironman Aisa Pacific have given me a great opportunity to travel and it’s a pretty important job, you kind of are the face of Ironman, and I’ve taken that on board. When I was younger I kind of abused it in some way. As you know I was out every night till 3 in the morning and still try and get up there. My voice is always going to be husky, some people like it some people think I’ve had a big night when I haven’t, but saying that Monday night after presentation I will be catching up.
Roxii: Well thanks for your time Pete Murray have a great weekend and I hope you can call as many people across the finish line as possible.
PM: Yeah I will, I’m looking forward to it, and Roxii, good luck with Transitions mate, it’s good to see, and I hope everyone gets on board and supports it.
(Well you heard the man, get on board!!)