Five years ago, Dave Murphy felt a fiery spark of motivation to change his life.
The Claresholm, Alta. resident was spending some time at a playground with his daughter, Chloe, in 2018, when she eventually asked him to race her back home.
"She's like, 'Dad, let's race, let's race,'" Murphy told Yahoo Canada. "I'm like, 'I'm sorry, sweetie. You know dad can't run.' You could just see her, her heart breaking in her face. That little look, I'll never, never forget it — and I'll never go back."
That year, Murphy was 400 lbs. He was also living with half of a muscle in his left leg, following an altercation at Ottawa's Bayshore Shopping Centre in 1994. In April of that year, three men left him with several lacerations and 13 major stab wounds, leaving Murphy without the ability to walk and forcing him to undergo major surgery.
While on the path to recovery and relearning how to walk, he had put on around 200 lbs, was barely moving his body and took up drinking alcohol. On top of that, he was dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Me age 18-40
- PTSD from being stabbed multiple times
- Felt worthless
- Heading on a path to almost 400lbs
- Alcohol Abuse
- Drinking six nights a week to escape anxiety
- Faked being "Ok" to friends & family
- 14 pills for medical reasons
Me at 47:
- PTSD defeated and healthy… pic.twitter.com/NOFppo5poI
— DaveMurNQ (@DaveMurYYC) April 5, 2023
Despite the hardships, Murphy — who's originally from Grand Falls, Nfld.— kept a positive outlook on life. Over the years, he organized various projects to donate things like food and thousands of dollars in gift certificates to first responders and soldiers.
By 2012, he was selected to be knighted into The Order of St. George, nominated for the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal and listed on Avenue Magazine's Top 40 Under 40.
The following year, he decided to take on a free gym trial in Calgary. He was doing well, having lost around 20 lbs.
However, there was one session where he was halfway into a cardio workout until he heard two men behind him laughing. Upon listening, Murphy heard one of the men joke to the other about the back of his neck, comparing it to a "giant pack of sausages."
That set Murphy back on his progress, and the comment lived "rent-free" in his mind. For years, Murphy said he attempted to get back into shape, only to fail several more times. He said he'd be triggered by reading about a stabbing in the news, or flicking on certain medical shows on TV.
While Murphy was "put back on the wagon," he said seeing the sadness in his daughter's face in 2018 essentially changed his life.
From there, he took on a goal to lose 100 lbs in one year, where he'd also donate $1 a pound to his favourite charity. He chose Can Praxis, an equine-assisted therapy organization helping veterans, first responders and their partners in Alberta.
Ten months into working out, he dropped nearly 80 lbs. Nearing his goal, he decided to "thank" the two men in 2013 who mocked his appearance. After posting his note in the Calgary Roast and Toast Facebook page, he received an offer to visit Southpaw Boxing Gym in Calgary.
Eventually, he was offered a free one-year membership to help him reach his goals. Ever since, Murphy has been on an upwards journey.
"It was all my daughter," he said over the phone. "I'm an older dad, I'll be 48 in August, she's nine in July. I want to be there to walk her down the aisle, not have her walk me down an aisle in a box.
"You just want to be a good example. I'm teaching her, she does boxing with me. She knows self-defence. She's had some of her friends from school come train with me. It's an example, and I can tell how proud she is of it."
Murphy is currently training around 10 people in his basement boxing studio at home. He's also planning on doing weekly Zoom workouts with other fathers.
A couple of weeks ago, Murphy said one of the men who mocked him in 2013 reached out to him to apologize. They even made plans to meet up and workout together.
Murphy eventually lost 172 pounds. While he no longer weighs himself, he noted that he went from a 52 suit, or an XXL, to a 32 waist, which is roughly a size M.
Now, Murphy said he has a goal of being in good enough shape to pass a military fitness test. On top of that, he said he and his daughter are also training for The 5K Foam Fest on June 24, a "Fun Run" race in Calgary with 22 obstacles geared towards team building.
While Murphy has lots of heartfelt experiences to come, one he continuously returns to is a video of himself going down a slide with Chloe for his first time.
Here's a video of the first time I was able to follow her down a slide at Treehouse play center. pic.twitter.com/YJKrRhHDWe
— DaveMurNQ (@DaveMurYYC) April 3, 2023
"She's smiling the whole time," he said about his daughter's attitude nowadays. "Just that video with us going down the slide the first time, I've listened to that about 85 times just to hear her laugh, her giggles. I used to take her to that place twice a week because I used to work four on, four off. I'd have to watch from the couches because I couldn't climb up there.
"That was the first day I got off the couch and said, 'Guess what? Dad's following you.' She was just tickled pink."