US Captain Kyle King is intimately familiar with the sound of a 105mm howitzer exploding. As an artillery officer, sound is music to his ears. This time, however, he was not standing in a line of fire among a battery of artillery Marines. He was at the start 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 Colonel Jim Fowler and Major General Michael Ryan with the goal of bridging 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 wouldn’t win until he was 39.
“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 I’ve seen it won by civilians, and I’ve always been a bit envious,” King said. “It always bothered me that a Marine didn’t win the Marine Corps marathon.”
On Oct. 30, King, the assistant operations officer for 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, won the first place trophy for the 47th Annual Marine Corps Marathon. King crossed the finish line with a time of 2:19:19, with about three minutes between him and the second runner. The fact that a Marine hadn’t won since 1983 was a big influence on his decision to run the Marine Corps Marathon – he wanted to be the one to change that.
“All Marines reading this, whatever their goals, I hope they can find some inspiration here; and how you prioritize your life and work towards your goals. Capt. Kyle King, assistant operations officer for 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division
“I was definitely nervous, but I like to be nervous before a race,” King said. “It means you’re ready and you’re emotionally in it. If you don’t feel nervous, I think that’s actually more of a problem.
Despite his nerves, King also knew how many hours he had put in training. He was confident in his abilities. His nervousness would be better described as eagerness.
By mile nine, the strain of enduring the race had made King’s body ready to give up. At this point, his body felt like he was more tired than he’d hoped. His mind had to fight his body’s urge to shut down, but he fell back on his Marine Corps training to fight the mental battle presented to him.
“I think it helps with my mental toughness. I think sometimes when we practice you wonder if you’re capable of it or if there’s more in your metaphorical tank. said the king. “My run over the years has shown me that you can always find a little more, if you want it enough.”
Although he crossed the finish line alone, during the months of hard work leading up to race day, he had his partner by his side day after day.
“I am very grateful to Hope, my partner, with all the support she has given me throughout the last four months of training.”
The only way for King to achieve his goal while balancing a full-time job was to wake up really early. That meant many 4am days. His priorities were to run and get to work on time. King admits that, while simple, it was a boring lifestyle at times.
Photo taken 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, Calif., 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 devote many late mornings and evenings to running, but so did his partner. She was right next to him. For many of her toughest workouts, she rode the bike alongside him.
“I’m mostly relieved to see fewer alarms at 4:15 a.m.,” Sweetnam said. “The race was a months-long celebration of exceptional discipline and tenacity and I was grateful to see it all come together in DC with tons of Marines ecstatic to cheer it on.”
A native of Coupeville, Washington, King’s running career dates back to his college, high school, and even college days. His older sister, Brianne Garrelts, inspired him to start his running career in college. In his eyes, she was a runway star. He ran track and cross country at Eastern Washington University for four years and one year at the University of Oklahoma. His race did not stop there. In 2016 King ran his first race with the Marine Corps Race Team. In June King ran a half marathon in England with the team, and in July he officially decided and started training for the MCM. His teammates can attest to the kind of person and racer that 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 all their lives and never come close to what he achieved, but his humility is probably what I admire most about him.”
In December, King organizes a 100 km race in Virginia. After that, he plans to take a break from marathons for the next six months and run for recreation instead.
“All Marines reading this, whatever their goals, I hope they can find some inspiration here; and how you prioritize your life and work toward your goals,” King said. “I hope I can inspire people to get involved.”