CA, UNITED STATES --
U.S. Marine Capt. Kyle King is intimately familiar with the sound of the blast from a 105 mm howitzer. As an artillery officer, the sound is music to his ears. This time, however, he wasn’t standing on a gun line amongst a battery of artillery Marines. He was at the starting line of the 2022 Marine Corps Marathon, on a mission to secure a victory for the Marine Corps.
The Marine Corps Marathon began in 1976. It was founded by Col. Jim Fowler and Maj. Gen. Michael Ryan as a way to bridge the gap between the military community and the civilian population. In 1983, Sgt. Farley Simon finished first in the Marine Corps Marathon. An active-duty Marine would not win for another 39 years.
“Since I’ve been in the Marine Corps, I’ve seen (the Marine Corps Marathon) won by Navy officers, I’ve seen it won by Air Force officers, I’ve seen it won by civilians, and I’ve always been a little envious,” said King. “It’s always kind of bothered me that a Marine hasn’t won the Marine Corps Marathon.”
On Oct. 30, King, the assistant operations officer with 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, took home the first place trophy for the 47th Annual Marine Corps Marathon. King crossed the finish line with a time of 2:19:19, with approximately three minutes between him and the second place runner. The fact that a Marine hadn’t won since 1983 very much influenced his decision to run the Marine Corps Marathon - he wanted to be the one to change that.
“Any Marines who read this, no matter what their goals are, I hope they can find some inspiration in it; and how you prioritize your life and your work towards your goals.” Capt. Kyle King, the assistant operations officer with 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division
“I was definitely nervous, but I like being nervous before a race,” said King. “It means you're prepared and you're emotionally in it. If you're not feeling nervous, I think that is actually more of a problem.”
Despite his nerves, King also knew how many hours he had put into training. He was confident in his abilities. His nervousness would be much better described as eagerness.
By mile nine, the strain of enduring the race had made King’s body ready to quit. At this point, his body felt like it was being fatigued more than he would have hoped. His mind had to fight his body’s urge to stop, but he fell back on his Marine Corps training to fight the mental battle he was presented with.
“I do think it helps with my mental toughness. I think sometimes when we’re training, you question if you’re capable of it or if there is more in your metaphorical tank.” said King. "My running over the years has shown me that you can always find a little more, if you want it bad enough.”
Although he may have crossed the finish line alone, during the months of hard work leading up to race day, he had his partner by his side day-in, day-out.
“I’m very thankful for Hope, my partner, with all the support she gave me throughout the last four months training for it.”
The only way King was going to accomplish his goal while balancing a full-time job was waking up really early. That meant many 4 a.m. days. His priorities were running and getting to work on time. King admits that, although simple, it was at times a boring lifestyle.
Setting the Example
Photo by Cpl. Alexandra Munoz
U.S. Marine Capt. Kyle King, the assistant operations officer with 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, poses for a photo with his awards from the 47th Annual Marine Corps Marathon at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, Nov. 8, 2022. King is the first active-duty Marine to win the Marine Corps Marathon since 1983. The Marine Corps Marathon promotes physical fitness, generates community goodwill, and showcases the organizational skills of the Marine Corps.
Hope Sweetnam played a vital role in King’s journey. Not only did King dedicate a lot of early mornings and late evenings to running, but his partner did as well. She was right there next to him. For many of his harder workouts, she would ride her bike alongside him.
“I’m mostly relieved to see fewer 4:15 a.m. alarms,” Sweetnam said. “The race was a celebration of many months of discipline and exceptional toughness and I was grateful to see it all come together in D.C. with tons of stoked Marines cheering him on.”
Originally from Coupeville, Washington, King’s running career goes all the way back to his middle school, high school and even college days. His older sister, Brianne Garrelts, inspired him to begin his running career in middle school. In his eyes, she was a track star. He ran track and cross country at Eastern Washington University for four years, and one year at the University of Oklahoma. His running did not stop there. In 2016, King ran his first race with the Marine Corps running team. In June, King ran a half marathon in England with the team, and in July he officially decided and began his training for the MCM. His teammates can vouch for the kind of person and runner King is.
“He’s an incredibly gifted athlete,” said 1st Lt. Luke Gilman, one of King's teammates on the Marine Corps running team. “Most people could train religiously their entire lives and would never come close to what he has accomplished, but his humility is probably what I admire most about him.”
In December, King is running a 100 km race in Virginia. After that, he plans to take a break from running marathons for the next six months, and instead just run for leisure.
“Any Marines who read this, no matter what their goals are, I hope they can find some inspiration in it; and how you prioritize your life and your work towards your goals,” said King. “I hope I can inspire people to commit to that.”