Face of Defense: Marine Competes in Triathlons
By Marine Corps Pfc. Max S. Pennington
American Forces Press Service
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif.,, Oct. 21, 2011 Triathletes can be characterized as having the strength to do a certain task, having the endurance to go the distance, and having the wisdom to set a pace during a very long race.
Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Bryan K. Cox, the maintenance control chief with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361 here and a Louisville, Ky., native, came to realize his love for triathlons at the age of 30. Six years later he is still running strong.
Cox was an instructor at the Naval Aircrew Candidate School in Pensacola, Fla., when he first began testing his mind and body.
“I was not in the best shape, so I figured that if I’m going to be the first crew chief these guys see, I need to be in shape, so, I started running,” Cox said.
Marines who worked at the aircrew school with Cox suggested that he sign up for a triathlon because of his abilities to run, swim and bike.
“I signed up and did my first one and liked it so much that I signed up for one twice the distance the next week,” Cox said.
Cox has competed in a number of marathons and races, but focuses on triathlons.
“The biggest [triathlon] I’ve done is the Ironman Louisville,” he said. “It’s a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a 26.2-mile run. It took me 11 hours and 20 minutes. I finished 376th out of 2,500.”
The course consisted of scenic routes and took the competitors across flat land, over hills and through the Ohio River.
“Crossing that finish line and hearing them say I’m an iron man was really cool,” Cox said. “You’re competing against yourself. Although you may not win or beat the guy next to you, if you did better than the race before, that’s a win.”
Cox found time to run while on a deployment in Afghanistan. The diverse climate made it a struggle, but he pushed himself to run every day.
“The first time I ran over there I was barely able to run three miles because of the heat and the elevation,” he said.
Despite the climate, Cox kept running every day in Afghanistan, and even motivated a friend to accompany him.
“I knew he was a great runner. I wanted to better myself, so when he would go out and run I would tag along,” said Marine Corps Capt. Wade L. Swanson, a maintenance control officer with HMH-361 and a Washington D.C., native.
“We were averaging anywhere from seven to 11 miles a day,” Cox said.
Cox ran 1,107 miles during his seven-month deployment in Afghanistan. He set a personal record for his physical fitness test and he also helped Swanson develop a love for running.
“I completed my first marathon following the deployment,” Swanson said. “I would bet at least $1,000 that I would have never run a marathon prior to training with Gunny Cox in Afghanistan.”
Swanson said he plans to continue his training routine with Cox, and he wants to compete in more marathons.
“Not only has it increased my PFT score, but because I’ve been training with Gunny Cox I have really fallen in love with long distance running,” Swanson said.
"As I’m getting older, I feel like I have something to prove,” Cox said. “I want to show the younger [Marines] that if I’m out here doing this, then they can too.”