Athlete Spotlight - Max King

Racing a marathon is one of the more difficult challenges a runner can face. A lot can happen to your mind and body over 26.2 miles of pounding. There is a point where it becomes a race about perseverance.
Max King was given a test in perseverance over the weekend and what he overcame he hopes will be beneficial as he continues preparation for the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon January 14 in Houston.
Battling a cold and a nagging injury to his Achilles, King claimed his fourth consecutive XTERRA Trail Run World Championship Sunday and did so in dominating fashion. What King endured over the 21.9 kilometer trail course against a record number of runners December 4 in Oahu, Hawaii, will be a focal point for King as he trains for the Olympic Trials Marathon.

“It’s really something, I haven’t gone into that race healthy the last two years,” King said of the XTERRA Trail Run World Championships, which he has won each year since the race started in 2008.“Each year the competition gets harder and harder, but each year I learn a bit more about the course. The first half of the race was just about dealing with the Achilles. It flared up but not to the point where I had to drop out.”

For King, dropping out of a race doesn’t appear to be an option and he may be forced to overcome more adversity to reach his goal of representing Team USA at the 2012 Olympic Games.

“This injury has kind of been freaking me out and making me nervous,” King said. “But hopefully it won’t derail me too much. I think it’s going to nag me in my workouts but I know that my fitness is good.”

The injury has had little apparent effect on his training as King has been able to complete multiple three week blocks of training putting in as many as 140 miles per week.

King, representing the Central Oregon Running Klub in Bend, Ore., is currently qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon with the 16th fastest marathon time in the field at 2:15:34, which he ran at the Baltimore Marathon. The second road marathon of his career, King placed 6th overall and was the top American finisher.

King also finds his name among those representing the Oregon Running Klub in Saturday’s USA Track & Field National Club Cross Country Championships at the Jefferson Park Golf Course in Seattle. His participation in the competition will be dependent on the status of the injury to King’s Achilles.

Running a mountain race and a cross country race in consecutive weekends may seem strange for most runners, but has become commonplace for King. A graduate of Cornell University, the  31-year-old has been involved in numerous forms of competition that have included mountain and trail running, triathlon, steeplechase, cross country and road racing.

“It keeps it fresh and keeps it interesting,” King said about choosing to compete in so many different types of races. “It helps to keep my motivation up. I’m always looking for something new. If I get sucked into one event for too long I get bored. Just being strong in different disciplines and doing a lot of different events helps me in others.”

King has found success in much of what he has tried. An NCAA All-American, King placed fifth at the 2005 USA Outdoor Championships in the steeplechase after a brief hiatus from running  and a year competing in triathlons. He then spent time competing in the steeplechase, cross country and road racing and expanded to include ultra marathons  and trail running in 2008. 

His 2011 season was one of the best of King’s career. He was named USA Track & Field’s Athlete of the Week on September 28 for a weekend in which he won both the USA 50 km Trail Championships and the XTERRA National Championships.

As diverse of a distance runner as there is, King now shifts his attention to achieving his top goal as a competitor.

“I have some goals within ultra running and winning ultra trail races, but my immediate goal is  making the Olympic team,” he said.

While much remains to be seen if King can punch his ticket to London, he will certainly be prepared to try.

Jared Slinde
Communications Manager
USA Track & Field