Noel Murchie, a prolific and accomplished runner and journalist who spent much of her heyday in Hawaii, died peacefully in her sleep Oct. 22 at her home in Sacramento, Calif. She was 83.
“Friends and family will remember her boundless energy, whimsical writing, free-spirited nature, generosity and genuine kindness,” said Peter Kay, her son.
Murchie was born in Boston on Christmas Day 1935 but spent most of her childhood and much of her adult life in Hawaii. After graduating from Punahou School in 1953, she earned a degree in education and occupational therapy from Tufts University in Massachusetts.
From the 1950s and through the 1980s, Murchie worked as an occupational therapist in San Francisco, married Senior U.S. District Judge Alan Kay, volunteered for a variety of nonprofit organizations including the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra, taught English and coached an award-winning cross-country team at Seabury Hall on Maui.
In the ’70s and ’80s, Murchie helped pioneer long-distance running in Hawaii before it was acceptable for women to compete. She transitioned to running after playing competitive soccer on Hawaii’s first women’s master’s team, and her skills led to sponsorships with Nike and Mizuno.
She was one of the first women to compete in 50-plus-mile races in the state and won many of the more than 30 marathons she competed in. Her accomplishments include nearly breaking the three-hour mark in the Boston Marathon, completing the 100-mile Western States Endurance Race in 1983 in just 29 hours and breaking the women’s 50-and-over record for Maui’s “Run to the Sun,” a record she continues to hold today.
Just as impressive is her 46-year career as a freelance journalist, during which she published eccentric health and fitness pieces featured in The Honolulu Advertiser and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Murchie wrote for several other publications and even published two books — one a running guide and the other a memoir. In her memoir, titled “The Accidental Hermit,” she recalls the year she spent “living alone in the woods relishing a Spartan lifestyle.”
Murchie spent the last 20 years of her life in Orcas Island, Wash., where she gardened, wrote and even volunteered as a musician at a care home for seniors. Following a stroke, she was cared for full time for eight years.
She is survived by son Peter Kay, daughter Anna Kay Neal, brother Donald Murchie, sister Peggy Kimball and four grandchildren.
“She was quite a special kamaaina in the islands, and so many people would be touched to find this in the newspaper in which she often had articles published,” Kay said.