Forgot username?     |     Forgot password?

Show Blog Categories
Hide Blog Categories
January 31, 2011

Max King - A Pro's Perspective on a racing schedule that mixes things up!

Written by Dena Evans


Max King is a bio-chemical engineer from Bend, Oregon.  In his spare time, he has also found time to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the steeplechase and marathon, win the Xterra World Trail Championships three times running, compete for the US at the World Cross Country Championships multiple times, win a six day mountain team race, and generally sample and succeed at any racing discipline he has tried.  He is also a husband and a dad.  This month, Max King provides a Pro’s Perspective on a career that has been anything but ordinary.

Coach: After first bursting out on the national scene as a steeplechaser from an Ivy League school, you have made the successful transition to become a multi-time Xterra World Trail Championships winner.  You've been a world class cross country athlete and have competed in Ultra-Marathons as long as 50 miles.   What is your best event and why do you think so?

MK: I don't know if I have a best event. That remains to be seen. I think if we had Tour de France of running, something like Transrockies 6-day stage race, I think that might be my best event, but the event that I put the most time into and probably enjoy the most is probably cross country. No other event gives me goosebumps when I show up at the race venue and look out over the course where hundreds of runners are going to line up on a starting line that I like to imagine goes on and on then all starting at the same time making a run for the same point on the course. Something about that feeling gets me every time.

Coach:  Many people are introduced to running through high school track, or as an adult, their local 5ks or a nudge from a friend to try training for a half marathon for fitness or charity.  How did you get started running and how did you decide to eventually start incorporating some of the less traditional distances into your training and racing goals?

MK: I started the same as a lot of runners.  I was terrible at ball sports, had no hand-eye coordination, but could beat all the kids in the mile in gym class.  I started running track in 7th grade and cross country in 9th. These other events like mountain running, trail running, and ultras have just always appealed to me because they are difficult and “fringe”. For some reason I'm always drawn to whatever's different. I still come back to the basics of track and cross country though because they're the basics, and where the competition is. There are two sides to it for me. Part of doing different running/racing formats is just to do something different and keep running fun, then the other side of it for me is the need for competition, and good competition too. I need to lose and I need to win. It helps make me better.

Coach:  Can you share a little bit about what a few of the different types of races you have done have each taught you, perhaps things that have then translated over into other areas of your running and racing?

MK:  The most important lesson I've learned lately as I started to prepare for the World Mountain Running Championships is that running a lot of hills, even slow hills, gives you immense power and strength for flat races. It was something I'd forgotten but I really believe it was a big key to running a good solid marathon this fall in 2:15.

Another is that doing ultras really doesn't slow you down like everybody thinks. If you stop doing speed while training for an ultra, then you will lose your speed. Running some longer races also makes the long runs feel a lot shorter, and if you incorporate your long run into an ultra race, then you can buy yourself some friends to run with. Makes it easier.

Coach:  Do you find that there are physical benefits you can identify from doing such a wide variety of training and racing tasks?

MK: I guess I kind of mentioned them above but the gist of it is that running a lot of different events has made me a better runner by identifying my weaknesses and building a lot of strength.

Coach:  What is the toughest race you have ever done?

MK: Toughest, hmm. For me the bad races are always the toughest, like last year at the USATF XC Champs. Ended up 11th. That was a tough race.  But the toughest physically and mentally would have to be Transrockies 2008. It's 6 days of running at a minimum altitude of 9000ft and a high point of 12,500ft. 115mi total with a big climb up over a mountain pass every day.  Oh, and it's a team race. Two people per team, both people run the whole thing and you have to stay together. That was the physical part - the mental part of the race was that the second place team was shadowing us the whole week. Going into day 6 we were only 4 minutes in front. That's nothing in a 24 mile day with two big climbs in it. Somebody hits a rough patch and down goes 10 minutes, easy. So we were stressed out the whole week. It's nerve wracking and something I'd never experienced before. You're always racing someone for one day. Racing for 6 straight days was something totally new.

Coach:  What are your goals for the next year or two?

MK: The immediate goal is to make the World XC Team again on Feb 5th. We'll see how that goes. Next up is the World Mountain Running Team qualifying in June along with some 10ks on the track in the spring. After that, the summer has some Mountain races, Transrockies again, and then the big goal for the year is the Olympic Marathon Trials in January. After that, who knows. I'll probably still just keep doing a little bit of everything. 

Coach:  If someone is a bit nervous to try a trail race or a different type of race than they might usually train for, what advice or encouragement can you give them?

MK: First off, trail races are fun. They have none of the pressure associated with a road race because time really shouldn't matter. An important part of trail running though is to do your homework on the course and make sure that you're not getting in over your head. Many can have a lot of elevation gain and someone that has done a half marathon on a road could find that doing a half marathon trail race can be much different. There are plenty of trail races that have novice courses that are non-technical and fairly flat. The great thing about them is that the next day your legs won't be nearly as sore as after a road race. You can recover so much faster after a trail run than a road run.

And in training, get some practice on a nearby trail. It may not be exactly the same as the race course but it will be similar and it will give you a feel for trails.

For more on Max, check out a podcast he made on trail running for Running Times!

Last modified on March 31, 2011
Dena Evans

Dena Evans

Dena Evans joined runcoach in July, 2008 and has a wide range of experience working with athletes of all stripes- from youth to veteran division competitors, novice to international caliber athletes.

From 1999-2005, she served on the Stanford Track & Field/ Cross Country staff. Dena earned NCAA Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year honors in 2003 as Stanford won the NCAA Division I Championship. She was named Pac-10 Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2003-04, and West Regional Coach of the Year in 2004.

From 2006-08, she worked with the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative, helping to expand the after school fitness programs for elementary school aged girls to Mountain View, East Menlo Park, and Redwood City. She has also served both the Stanford Center on Ethics and the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession as a program coordinator.

Dena graduated from Stanford in 1996.

E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it