Capt. Kyle King wins one for the home team at the Marine Corps Marathon

Capt. Kyle King had been hoping to compete in the Marine Corps Marathon for years. With runners back on the course Sunday morning for the first time since 2019, the Marine stationed in Twentynine Palms, Calif., achieved his goal and then some, winning the event’s 47th edition in 2 hours 19 minutes 19 seconds.

“That was a little emotional coming to the finish line,” he said. “I’ve wanted to run this race for so long.”

King, a 33-year-old artillery officer, finished 3 minutes 27 seconds faster than runner-up Jonathan Mott of Lakeland, Fla. England’s Chelsea Baker was the first woman to finish the race, completing the course in 2:42:38. Cara Sherman of Clifton Park, N.Y., was second, 4:30 behind.

King, who grew up in Washington state, has run competitively since high school, including a stint at Eastern Washington University. After taking a hiatus when he joined the Marines, he gravitated back toward the sport when he was stationed in Denver in 2018. In 2019, he won the Eugene (Ore.) Marathon, allowing him to qualify for the 2020 Olympic trials, at which he finished 47th in 2:18:20.

King prepared intensely for each of those opportunities, but his top goal was always the Marine Corps Marathon.

“I’ve been wanting to do this marathon for a while — just the work schedule and racing schedule [made it difficult],” he said. “This is the first time it actually happened.”

Chilly temperatures accompanied the start of the race through Arlington and D.C., but conditions improved as the morning unfolded. King found the weather beneficial to an extent.

“It was super cold. Honestly, I prefer cold over hot,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it really affected me. I honestly thought it was about perfect conditions. Pretty much no wind, nice and chilly, didn’t have to worry about getting too dehydrated.”

The power of the crowd was prominent Sunday, along the course and at the finish line. With friends, family and service members lining the way, runners called the energy infectious. King said the cheers of his fellow Marines provided an extra boost during difficult stretches.

“It’s really special doing it with all the Marines out there,” he said. “It was awesome to run in front of them and bring in the win for the home team.”

The previous two marathons were conducted remotely amid the pandemic, with participants running independently and submitting their times online. The virtual marathon setup failed to capture the camaraderie of the event, competitors said.

Gen. David H. Berger, the 38th commandant of the Marine Corps, was glad to be back in person, too. In 2019, he became the first commandant to run this marathon, finishing in 5:29:38. Running the race in person again this year, he emphasized his desire to compete alongside the community.

“This is not about the Marine Corps. It’s about the people. And although we organize it [and] it has our name, it’s really about the people,” said Berger, who finished in 5:46:36. “The emphasis should be [on] the people — the active duty, the reserved people, the civilians. This is definitely the people’s marathon.”

“Every individual who’s running has their own story, and every story has that mission that got them there to the start line,” Nealis said. “When they come across the finish [line] … they earned the right to be part of the few, the proud, the Marine Corps Marathon finishers.”

posted Monday October 31st
by Michael Charles