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A Good Run - Personal Challenge Fuels State Police Captain's Race to Retirement

Fifty marathons in 50 months in 50 states would be a feat for most anyone. Even for someone who is a lifelong runner and may believe they are past their prime years of running.  

At 50 years old, approaching the end of his policing career, and the realization that his body may not allow him to run forever, Michigan State Police (MSP) Capt. Kevin Sweeney mapped out a course and pulled the trigger on his 50/50/50 plan.

“I average in the 3:30s now,” said Captain Sweeney, commander of the MSP’s Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division, a running time that is about one hour slower (his take) than his personal best some 30 years ago.

“The actual act of running these marathons is pretty neat for several reasons,” said Captain Sweeney. “I get to complete these races with family and friends. My wife and I spent our 25th wedding anniversary on Maui in Hawaii last January, which also coincided with a marathon there. I’ve traveled with one or more of my children to multiple states to race together, my brother has joined me for two races, and friends have also attended.” 

His brother, a school teacher in Colorado, was part of his inspiration because he biked around the world during his summer downtime, even writing a memoir called “Lisbon to Shanghai in Four Summers,” detailing his travels.

Photo of Tom and Kevin Sweeney in Utah standing in front of mountains

A marathon is 26.2 miles. One of the most prestigious races is the Boston Marathon, which Captain Sweeney and his wife Teri both qualified for and ran in 2011. Teri was an accomplished runner herself in both high school and college.

Teri and Kevin Sweeney in Hawaii

Most of his core memories include running. He barely remembers a time when it wasn’t part of his daily routine, minus the first few years after his triplets were born when he also had a toddler already at home. Those triplets – Mara, Emma and Kyle – are collegiate runners at Ferris State, Northern Michigan and Taylor universities respectively. Although his oldest, Avery, never showed interest in running, she did follow in the family footsteps, recently graduating from Grand Valley State University, where her mom attended college, with a degree in Criminal Justice. 

 “We will still keep Avery in our will even though she isn’t a runner,” quipped Captain Sweeney.  

Photo of Sweeney family in Alaska

Running helped prepare him for Trooper Recruit School and later kept him in shape as a young trooper. Throughout his policing career, Captain Sweeney was a member of the MSP Central Route Torch Run Team, which supports the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Michigan®. He participated in the 725-mile non-stop marathon from Copper Harbor to Detroit a total of 15 times, serving as captain of the team from 2013 – 2020.

Photo of Captain Sweeney and another MSP member standing behind a vehicle after running

“Running is something to me that is physically, mentally and spiritually rewarding,” he said. “It is just as much a part of my life as anything else I do.” 

Captain Sweeney logs at least three miles a day (his consecutive streak sits at almost 16 years) to relax and reflect on life. He also helped restart a 40-year dormant athletic program in his community as the head coach for the men’s and women’s cross-country team at Montcalm Community College. 
“As troopers, we aim to form authentic connections with our customers – Michigan residents. We strive to serve real needs. I like to think I’ve been able to do that with the relationships I built on running too.

“I’ve completed marathons in 24 of the 50 states with Arkansas and North Carolina up next,” said Captain Sweeney. “My wife has given me a lot of grace as the time away and cost is noticeable. Finishing these marathons will feel like closure to a running career that has lasted over 35 years. These marathons will wrap up about a year before I end my MSP career, and I will certainly enjoy a little bit of rest from both.”