MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, VA. --
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. – For most service members, fitness plays an important part of their duty to their country. It is a requirement for Marines to be physically and mentally tough. Marines are expected to be fast, strong, and resilient, but some are faster than others. Capt. Kyle King is one of the fastest runners in the Marine Corps, and a member of the All-Marine Running Team.
One doesn’t just simply walk onto the team, it takes hard work, dedication, and a thirst for speed.
“I started running track in middle school doing the mile. I was pretty successful at a pretty early age. So I started running more in high school,” said Capt. King, Assistant Operations Chief, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marines.
King excelled on the high school track team in Coupeville, Washington, and became the state champion in the 1-mile and 3-mile race.
“I’ve won a few state championships in high school,” said King, “but then I got a scholarship to Eastern Washington University,” he continued.
The scholarship helped King continue his running career into college where he competed in 1,000-meter to 10,000-meter long-distance races. It was there, at EWU, that King met his current running coach, Chris Hammer.
“Because he had that itch to compete, as most runners do when they want to continue to run, he reached out to me to start coaching him,” said Hammer.
After four years at EWU, King continued to run at the University of Oklahoma. There, he competed in multiple different races, including the 3,000-meter, which he clocked at 8 minutes, 12.09 seconds, earning the tenth fastest time in the 3,000-meter at OU.
“There's finesse runners, and then there's workhorse runners, and he's definitely the latter,” said Hammer. “He's a workhorse kind of guy. He has a lot of talent.”
After graduating from OU, King decided to join the Marine Corps and attend Officer Candidate School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. Upon completion of OCS, King heard about the All-Marine Running Team, and instantly knew he had to join. King was able to get in touch with the coach for the All-Marine Running Team and submit his times from college, expressing his interest in the team. With his impressive record, there was no doubt he would be accepted to the team.
“Once I got into the Marine Corps, I found out about the running team. When I joined, I started to do a few races a year for them,” said King.
But being on the team posed its challenges; every team member has to find a balance between performing efficiently at work and finding the time to train for the races.
“One of the challenges most of us face is finding a rhythm with our training,” said King. “It takes a special level of commitment to be fit enough to run a marathon competitively and to work.”
As his coach, Hammer agrees that King’s training does suffer somewhat when the Marine Corps needs King elsewhere.
“From a coach's perspective, I can say it's not ideal. With the demands that his job places on him, he can be in the field for 10 plus days or so at a time. And he's not running during that time either, he's not training as an elite athlete. He's training as a Marine, and there isn’t a lot of overlap between those two,” said Hammer.
Despite his obligations to the Marine Corps, King always does his best to carve out time to run. He does that so well, that he also has to find a way to fit in his sleep cycle and meals into his schedule. Meal prepping allows King to quickly eat on the go, whether it’s after a workout, while getting ready for work, or on his commute.
“The Marine Corps doesn’t make running a priority for me, so that means I really have to,” said King. “I have to prepare everything ahead of time, so that I can get the proper rest, and still fulfill my duties at work.”
It can be challenging to wake up at 4 a.m. and to run 12-14 miles in the morning before work, and then repeat that after work. King confesses that he is no superman, he too struggles with the urges to go home to watch television and relax. But he knows that in order to get better, he has to train.
“A lot of times, running is the very last thing I want to do in the moment,” admits King. “But you have to ask yourself, why are you in it?”
King’s reason for being in it, is the feeling after the race. The feeling of knowing that he gave everything he could give; knowing that he made his goal, and didn't come up short, to say that he did everything that he was capable of, and not having to wish he did more. That’s his reason for being in it.
Both King and Hammer are looking forward to this year’s 47th Marine Corps Marathon. Over the past couple months, Hammer has been helping King get enough mileage in so that he will be prepared for the race.
“With a marathon, obviously, that means we need to build up the long runs, and we need to do a lot of work at a pace that he will hopefully be racing at. Nothing special, just kind of grinding away,” said Hammer.
King has enjoyed his training with Hammer in preparation for the Marine Corps Marathon.
“I'm very excited. I first started getting back into training with the goal of winning the Marine Corps Marathon,” said King. “I think people are going to be excited with it being the first one in two years. It's special. It's a big event for the Marine Corps.”
And with an event as big as the marathon, even bigger goals have been made.
“My primary goal would be to win it,” said King. “I don't know what the competition looks like this year. But I'm doing everything I can to show up in the best shape possible.”
Hammer’s goals for King come from a place of compassion, “I just want to see him go out there and compete. I want him to have a good experience,” said Hammer. “At the end of the day, I want him to be able to look at himself in the mirror after the race, and say, ‘I have no regrets with the effort I put in; I have no regrets with the preparation. I did everything I could to the best of my ability, given the demands placed on me’.”
That is what the Marine Corps Marathon is about, going out there, putting your best foot forward, and giving it your all. As a marathon runner, there’s no better place than to be on the road surrounded by the people sharing that moment, sharing that experience, and pushing through to the finish line.