Masters of Miles

Cal Guard marathon team tackles National Guard endurance race

U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Skyler Sandoz

U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Skyler Sandoz

by Staff Sgt. Eddie Siguenza
California National Guard Public Affairs

May 4, 2021

ROSEVILLE, Calif. —There’s a bullseye target on the back of U.S. Army Capt. Kenny Rayner, the California National Guard’s running phenomenon.

He’s the prey avoiding a pack of hungry wolves. It’s truly an honor, Rayner claims, to have that distinction. He recently led Cal Guard’s six-member team into the May 2, 2021 Lincoln National Guard Marathon Time Trials in Nebraska, where the 30-year-old Rayner has dominated.

Not only was he the defending champion, Rayner has won the 26.2-mile event four times.

“There is always pressure to ‘repeat’ a victory. You never know who is going to show up to the start line, who trained harder this year, and who is going to have the race of their lives,” said Rayner.

“However, that challenge is what makes any victory feel so special, knowing that it is never guaranteed. Whoever wins this year, I hope they soak in the win and enjoy the moment.”

Like Rayner, Cal Guard’s Maj. Samantha Wood also shined, taking third place amongst women with a time of 3:30:39. Wood was the 55th National Guardsman to cross the finish line out of nearly 200 Soldiers and Airmen from 42 states and territories.

Both Wood and Rayner qualified for the National Guard All-Marathon Team that will showcase the National Guard Bureau in upcoming events.

Rayner, a security officer at Maneuver Training Center, Camp Roberts, finished second this year to U.S. Army Sgt. Derek Yorek with the Arkansas National Guard. Yorek, a familiar foe, beat Rayner in the 2019 Lincoln National Guard Marathon Time Trials, ending Rayner’s then two-year reign.

“I enter every race with the goal of beating the best version of myself,” said Rayner, who averaged 6:13 per mile throughout the course. “The marathon is less about running and more about gaining the confidence to accomplish an unimaginably difficult task.”

Ironically, Rayner won the 2017 event with the same finishing time as this year.


Cal Guard’s marathoners also include:

- U.S. Army Master Sgt. Chi Huynh, operations noncommissioned officer for the 115th Regional Support Group, who finished 51st overall in 3:27:30. He bested last year’s finish by more than 10 minutes.

-U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Monk, a senior paralegal with the 40th Infantry Division, was 67th overall in 3:37:43. 

- U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Kelsey M. Lockard, assistant inspector general at Joint Forces Headquarters, ended 140th overall in 4:30:17. The 38-year-old marathoner was the 27th female finisher.

Cal Guard team organizer U.S. Army Maj. Angela Delwiche, deputy director of California Installation Management Command at Camp Roberts, finished the Lincoln Half Marathon in 2:51:23.


The race simultaneously ran with the 44th annual Lincoln Marathon which has served as the National Guard trials since 1984. Altogether, more than 725 completed the marathon. Rayner ended 18th overall.

This was Rayner’s 29th marathon. He set a personal best time of 2:22:31 in the 2019 Chicago Marathon. 

Photo of Cal National Guard marathoner

U.S. Army Capt. Kenny Rayner of the California National Guard, the defending Lincoln National Guard Marathon Time Trials winner and four-time champion, runs the 2021 competition in Lincoln, Nebraska, May 2, 2021. Rayner finished second amongst National Guardsmen in two hours, 42 minutes and 47 seconds, a pace slower than previous races. Counting civilians, Rayner was 18th overall among nearly 800 participants. Two hundred National Guard runners representing 42 states and territories competed in the event. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Skyler Sandoz)

U.S. Army Capt. Kenny Rayner of the California National Guard, the defending Lincoln National Guard Marathon Time Trials winner and four-time champion, runs the 2021 competition in Lincoln, Nebraska, May 2, 2021. Rayner finished second amongst National Guardsmen in two hours, 42 minutes and 47 seconds, a pace slower than previous races. Counting civilians, Rayner was 18th overall among nearly 800 participants. Two hundred National Guard runners representing 42 states and territories competed in the event. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Skyler Sandoz)

“(5-Ks) and 10-Ks are incredibly less satisfying to me,” said the endurance runner. “Regardless of the finish time, completing a marathon always feels like a big accomplishment in itself. You can’t help but smile when you cross that finish line; you just ran 26.2 miles!”

Cal Guard’s participation assisted Project Purple, the event’s designated charity. The organization raises funds and awareness for the cure for pancreatic cancer. This cancer is ranked No. 4 of the 10 deadliest cancers, Project Purple states. It is also the least funded of the Top 10 cancers. 

Last year’s coronavirus outbreak cancelled the Lincoln Marathon, but the September 2020 Omaha Marathon became the National Guard trials. Rayner won that in 2:35:18.

“It was definitely a special year to win due to COVID-19 taking away most of the racing and team based training opportunities,” said Rayner. “Almost all of my training runs become solo endeavors and relied heavily on self-motivation and the motivation of my teammates across the US. Running solo workouts and long runs can only get you so far.”

Rayner has been with Cal Guard for two years. His 10-year military career has put him in the Rhode Island, Massachusetts and District of Columbia National Guards. He credits the 2019 Chicago and 2013 Boston marathons as his most significant races.

Cal Guard runner Samantha Wood crossing a bridge
Photo of Cal National Guard marathon runner
Photo of Cal Guard marathoner near Lincoln Capital.

U.S. Army Capt. Kenny Rayner of the California National Guard, the defending Lincoln National Guard Marathon Time Trials winner and four-time champion, runs past the Nebraska state capital building May 2, 2021. Rayner finished second amongst National Guardsmen in 2:42:47, a pace slower than previous races. Counting civilians, Rayner was 18th overall among nearly 800 participants. Two hundred National Guard runners representing 42 states and territories competed in the event. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Jamie Titus)

U.S. Army Capt. Kenny Rayner of the California National Guard, the defending Lincoln National Guard Marathon Time Trials winner and four-time champion, runs past the Nebraska state capital building May 2, 2021. Rayner finished second amongst National Guardsmen in 2:42:47, a pace slower than previous races. Counting civilians, Rayner was 18th overall among nearly 800 participants. Two hundred National Guard runners representing 42 states and territories competed in the event. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Jamie Titus)

“The impact of the Boston Marathon bombing was a tragedy to my home city and the running community as a whole. That day became a major motivator in my desire to establish a career in federal law enforcement,” Rayner explained. “I crossed the finish line in 2:37 with my family standing near one of the locations where the bombs would go off a few hours later.”

He hasn’t ruled out the possibility of competing for a slot on the 2024 U.S. Olympic Marathon Team, when it will be held in Paris, France.

“Anything is now possible,” Rayner concluded. “I’m incredibly excited to go for a chance at being one of the Top 200 or so marathoners in the US .”

The top 40 National Guard runners to cross the finish line become members of the All-Guard team for the year, enabling them to compete in events across the country.

The National Guard Bureau sponsors a Military Competitions Program that allows National Guard members to compete in national and Outside Continental United States (OCONUS) competitions representing the National Guard Bureau. The program encompasses four types of events: marathon, marksmanship, biathlon and parachuting. Nebraska, Arkansas, Vermont and Rhode Island, respectively, provide event coordinators.