After Florence, a young Marine couple sets out for Marine Corps Marathon

WASHINGTON — The 43rd Marine Corps Marathon will be the first marathon that 30-year-old Kevin Rodriguez, an active duty Marine, will run in his life. It’ll also be the Corpus Christi, Texas, native’s first trip to the nation’s capital.

But amid all that excitement, one could probably forgive him if he doesn’t run quite as well as he had originally hoped, since training for the race has fallen somewhat on his list of priorities. Rodriguez is stationed at Camp Lejeune, in North Carolina, and Hurricane Florence made landfall only about 50 miles south of his home in the nearby city of Jacksonville.

“We’re trying to stay with it,” he admitted. “Right now [his wife] Susanna is a lot more committed than I am.”

Susanna Rodriguez used to be an active duty Marine, too. In fact, that’s how the two met; and it’s why they chose to run this race together.

When 30-year-old Kevin Rodriguez runs in this year’s Marine Corps Marathon, it’ll be his first time in the nation’s capital. (Courtesy Kevin and Susanna Rodriguez)
Kevin and his wife, Susanna, met as active duty Marines. Susanna retired from active duty about a year-and-a-half ago so she could be at home to help raise their three children. (Courtesy Kevin and Susanna Rodriguez)
“The Marine Corps really put a lot of pressure on us,” Rodriguez told WTOP, “but at the same time we were able to respond the best we could and we made the best of what we had.” (Courtesy Kevin and Susanna Rodriguez)
Kevin and Susanna live in North Carolina just 50 miles from where Hurricane Florence made landfall in September. Kevin put his skills with roofing and fencing to use in neighborhood recovery. Courtesy Kevin and Susanna Rodriguez) (Courtesy Kevin and Susanna Rodriguez)

“We met as young Marines, and after that we continued to be friends throughout the Marine Corps,” he said. “It’s had a big, big role in our lives as a family.”

Susanna retired from active duty about 1 1/2 years ago so she could be at home to help raise their three children.

“At one point when we were in Okinawa, Japan, we would drive home from work and I’d be upstairs giving the kids a bath, she’d be downstairs doing the dishes, cleaning up the house, getting ready for work the next day. After that, we’d swap out.”

Kevin said parenting, work as active duty military, trying to take college classes and general home life was a balancing act in which Kevin felt they weren’t spending as much time with the kids as they both would have hoped.

“Pressure makes diamonds, and we grow through adversity. The Marine Corps really put a lot of pressure on us, but at the same time we were able to respond the best we could and we made the best of what we had. The Marine Corps really made us grow a lot, and we grow a lot more appreciation for the things that we have.”

In fact, Kevin admits that even beyond planting the seeds for his family, “it’s really given me a lot of opportunities, and it’s opened up a lot of doors for things that wouldn’t have been available,” things, he said, he has greater appreciation for.

But at the same time, having a spouse who was also in the military means being with someone who understands what he’s going through at work. And having been at home with their kids, he understands why she’s ready for a break when he gets home.

“So long as I give mama bear that time for her to go to the gym or for her to go run, she’s happy,” he joked. “So, I try to give that to her.”

It’s time Kevin hasn’t had much of lately. After the storm hit, he took leave so he could make the repairs he needed at his house, which suffered some water damage but escaped the worst.

“Looking back at the hurricane, you realize your priorities really, really shift in a state of emergency,” Kevin said. “Now that we have our house all square, for the most part … we’re very, very fortunate. There’s a lot of families out there who, man, they got flooded. You see all their belongings out on the curb. Fortunately we didn’t have to take anything out to the curb. There’s no reason for us to complain.”

Kevin has been lending a hand to others still picking up the pieces.

“Luckily, I have the skills to do some of those odd jobs like roofing and fencing and stuff like that,” he said in September. “Some people around the area just need a couple of panels put up, so a little money here, a little money there, it really helps out — it’s just backbreaking work.”

But the storm has shown him again how to appreciate what he has, much like deployments to the Middle East and orders to Japan have shown him in the past. He’ll never take a warm shower for granted again, for instance. His love of the Marines, his wife, and his life in general are why Kevin is running, and why Susanna is going to run with him — if not past him — in this race.

About a month before the race, Kevin confided that amid all the hurricane cleanup happening around him, “I kind of fell off the training regimen. I’m hoping to hop back on with a month out.”

The buildup to the race was one more way the Marine Corps was going to bring him closer to his wife. Now he’s hoping he’ll be able to stay close to her on the course.

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John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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