Interview with Max King, Salomon Running Athlete
- Bend, Oregon – USA
When and why did you start running?
That requires a long answer to a short question. In the interest of keeping it short, I started running track in 7th grade. I was terrible at ball sports and hand-eye coordination wasn’t my forte. That year I got cut from the A team in basketball, then cut from the B team and put on a C team. We lost every game that season. Then I went on to win every race I had in 7th grade track. I feel like it was a sign.
Describe your ideal race?
If you’ve been running long enough you’d better have had a race that was at least close to ideal. No race is going to be exactly ideal or we’d quit when we had that perfect race but I’ve had a few that have been really close. Two I can think of. Both hot weather. Both world championships. The first was the 2011 World Mtn Running Championships in Albania. It was super hot. Treating it like a cross country race I went out with some of the leaders and found myself amongst the whole Ugandan team. They did not want me to control their race. So I messed with them a little and settled in for the race. Eventually, they started dropping off and I found myself in 2nd with half a lap (2km) to go. The leader wasn’t in sight. As I ran down into the finish I passed a Ugandan I thought I was lapping. When I got into the finish chute I was the one breaking the tape and the Ugandan I had passed was the leader, struggling with heat exhaustion.
The second race was the World 100km Championships on a hot night in Doha, Qatar. I ran smart and my body held up throughout. I felt great and hit even splits on a flat but mentally brutal 5km loop course. It was the most boring race I’d ever run but also probably the smartest. I won with a new American 100km record of 6:27.
Tell us about your favourite trail race.
I get asked about my favourite trail race all the time and my answer has always been the same. I really don’t have one. There are good races, bad races, race courses I like better than others but each one is completely unique and the experience at each is also unique so I can never pick one out. One of my favourites, however, is the Zegama Maraton in Basque country. It’s spectacular. I had a horrible race there though. One day I’ll be back.
You’re a very fast runner, it’s so inspiring; what would you consider to be the most important thing to do or think about when speed training, and how best do you avoid injuries or minor niggles when doing so?
One thing that helps me is that I’ve been doing it so long. But, during a block of speed training, I still have to build my interval volume up and I can tell when I’ve had enough for the day and I’m on the verge of injury. The number one thing though is to get out there and just do it. So many people don’t see the need if they’re running an ultra or a trail race where they may only go 8-9min miles. There is still a huge fitness benefit in doing speed (VO2max, Threshold, Hills, etc not just “speed”) that it’s really important.
I’ve found that avoiding injuries means understanding your body and how much you can handle. I keep those little things from becoming big things by jumping right on them and rolling, stretching, strengthening, and have a good general “pre-hab” routine.
You seem to excel in most distances and types of racing, including mountain running, track running and even obstacle races, but which do you enjoy running the most, and why?
I enjoy running, period. That’s why I do so many different things and partly why I excel at them. If you believe you want to do something and think it will be fun, you’ll usually do well at it. I do have to say though that I think what I enjoy most is cross country. Running fast over hill and dale and racing it out with other competitors around you.
What has been your biggest running/adventure challenge to date?
Right now it’s the 100 mile distance. I’ve done two and have struggled in both. I still haven’t figured that distance out yet.
If you believe you want to do something and think it will be fun, you’ll usually do well at it.
I read that you had a major input into the design of Salomon’s first proper road racing shoe; the S-Lab X-Series, which has evolved into the S-Lab Sonic 2. What was it like being able to do that, and what do you like most about the resulting shoe? We run on roads with them so really interested to hear more about this 🙂
Well, that may be a stretch. I don’t know if I would say “major” input. I had some. I wish I could say that I had a lot (and I could even say I did, but I won’t). I had some input. I liked how the Sense series fit and so we used a similar last to that to get that precision fit on it. It needed to have a good toe spring as a typical road shoe would (and now we’ve even taken that over to the newer Sense line). I would have angled for more of a 4mm drop to it too but they decided to go with an 8mm drop for the time being.
We are now working on some new road prototypes that I should have some more input on and should be some pretty revolutionary stuff. It’s going to be cool. You’ll just have to wait and see on that though 🙂
[If you would like to read more about the shoe, check out our Salomon S-Lab Sonic 2 Road Running shoe review here.]
Tell us about your greatest running fail (we’ve all had – or will have – them at some point!)
Ooh, that’s a good question. I’ve had so many. I’ve definitely felt like I’ve almost died a few times during runs. The ones where you’re careering down a hill and your life flashes before your eyes and at the last moment, you catch yourself on a tree or a rock or something.
But, I’m going to give you my best fall ever, not a running fall. I was rollerblading the week of our high school district meet around our school. I decided to jump over a bench. I did not see the big wooden beam above said bench. My head hit it, I about did a backflip, and as I got up a steady stream of blood began to run down my face. (I still have a photo of the blood stain on the sidewalk I took the next day) It ended in an ER visit and about 15 stitches and a great scar up my skull to prove it.
What is your approach to training? Do you follow a particular training plan?
Nothing specific. It’s a lot of the old stuff I learned in college and reading old training books as well as taking the new knowledge I learn from some of the present day ultrarunners we have in town here in Bend. There’s a wealth of knowledge and experience out there but there’s no one “right” way to do it either.
What advice would you give to a new trail runner?
A lot of what I said above but I think the single most important piece of advice I’ve gotten is to work on figuring out your nutrition in a trail race. It determines so much about your success. Also, you’re going to have to work f*^*king hard if you want to succeed.
What is your favourite bit of running kit?
I’d have to go with shoes. Shorts and shirt are pretty standard but a good pair of shoes for the terrain you’re one can make your run really fun. That’s why there are so many out there. Having that quiver of shoes makes it so much fun to get out on different kinds of terrain.
What challenges/races/adventures are you planning for the coming year?
The rest of this year is filled with more fun stuff. Sierre-Zinal this next week where I’m hoping to do better than I have before. Glencoe Skyline in September, which is going to be a ton of fun. I may not do that well with all the hiking and scrambling but it’s going to be a fun course. Then top it off with the TNF Endurance Challenge in November.
I don’t have next year planned out yet so if you’ve got anything I should check out, let me know. [We will definitely keep you posted on that, Max!]
I think the single most important piece of advice I’ve gotten is to work on figuring out your nutrition in a trail race. It determines so much about your success.
What’s your favourite running/adventure book, and which songs keep you going when things get tough?
My favourite running book is still “Once a Runner”. And I’m kind of heavy metal guy most of the time but it’s a huge variety on my playlists when I listen to music (which is almost never when I’m running). That sound track is reserved for foot falls, heavy breathing, and being inside my own head.
I’ve found that avoiding injuries means understanding your body and how much you can handle. I keep those little things from becoming big things by jumping right on them and rolling, stretching, strengthening, and have a good general pre-hab routine.
Congrats on your recent win at Broken Arrow Skyrace 26k and 2nd place on the VK! It’s very impressive to bag two podiums in a weekend! And also your most recent podium at Marathon du Mont Blanc in Chamonix! What was the Broken Arrow Skyrace like as an event and how does it compare to the European equivalents like Marathon du Mont Blanc in Chamonix in terms of organisation, size, terrain, weather, course beauty and toughness?
The organizers did an amazing job with Broken Arrow Skyrace this year. They do such a great job with the media around the race, the small festival atmosphere and really making it still feel intimate and small. While I like the big Euro races, I don’t like the atmosphere around them as much because they feel sooo big. I like smaller races and Broken Arrow did a good job keeping that small feel while still making it feel like a high level race.
Finally, what do you get up to in life when you’re not running or adventuring?
Thank you, Max for taking the time to be interviewed. We’re so pleased to have you in our Interview Series as you have contributed and achieved so much to the world of trail running. You’re also a person who motivates many people so I know our readers will love reading this and learning a little bit more about you.
Good luck in the rest of your races for 2017, and maybe see you at TNF Endurance Challenge in San Francisco in a few months time!
Max Kings’s Trail Running Camp
Max also runs a Trail Running Camp at Suttle Lake in Oregon. They do navigation, trail stewardship, training, trail running on some magnificent trails, nutrition, strength training, and serve up some amazing food. An opportunity you CAN’T miss!
- Where: Suttle Lake, Oregon
- Dates: September 20-24th
- Website: MaxKingTRC.com