It's Good To Be King - Page 6
King (#211) on his way to second place at the 1997 4A Southern Oregon District Cross-Country Championships. Photo courtesy of Max King Collection.
King has long been a student of running’s mental challenge. “In 2004, I got burned out on running. It wasn’t fun anymore. I made a choice—let it be fun or stop doing it. I started running trails more, and stopped paying such close attention to the routine of it.”
Following his 2004 burnout King started pursuing more trail races. “I’ve always had more fun on the trails,” he says. However, it wasn’t until it was economically feasible to pursue them—i.e. the opportunity to win prize money—that he committed to trail racing. “People think I’m an asshole for saying that money has driven me. You can talk about the pureness of it, but the money is a huge incentive.” King explained that the big(ger) money trail races that have been emerging feed him—financially and emotionally. “People worry about it ruining the sport, but really it brings new people into the sport.”
The addition of trail, mountain and ultra races to a calendar that already included cross country, track and road has also provided King with that many more races to choose from. He admits even he needs some time off once in a while, but to rest his brain, not his body. “Physically, if I take time off, it just hurts. It takes three weeks to get back into it.”
Being able to straddle the lines between track, trail, mountain and ultra does more for King than just give him a bigger purse to pull from. It lends him an often-forgotten element in mountain, ultra and trail running—speed. “Because I’ve got a top-end speed of a 4:30 mile means that six-minute pace is that much more comfortable.”
Echoeing that statement was the winner of Europe’s most competitive ultra race, The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, Francois D’Heane, 27, of France. In February the two raced the three-day stage race El Cruce Colombia (see “Running the Volcanoes,” June 2013, Issue 88), crossing from Chile into Argentina. Day after day Max took the win and Francois second. “I could maybe keep with him on the technical and the hills,” D’Heane says in a thick French accent. “But the moment it went flat ... pffffff.” He chopped his hand like a tomahawk off in the distance. “Eem-paw-see-bal.”
There is an old axiom that says, “If you want to run fast, you have to practice running fast.” For decades it has been common belief that since the speed of longer-distance races rarely drop below seven-minute pace, it’s best to concentrate one’s training efforts on endurance. King is leading a wave of long-distance runners who refuse to let go of their quick leg turnover—and, more often than not, they are the names at the top of the results page.