Max King. Oh Max King. The king of diversity lines up as a clear favorite in the men’s race of this weekend’s IAU 100k World Championships. In this interview, Max talks about what he’s been racing this year, what he thinks of Friday’s race course, and how Team USA may work together on game day.
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Max King Pre-2014 IAU 100k World Championships Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Max King before the 2014 IAU 100k World Championships in Qatar. How’s it going, Max?
Max King: It’s going well.
iRunFar: You’ve never run longer than a marathon on the roads, have you?
King: Well, I have in training, but not in racing, no. I really haven’t.
iRunFar: What’s the longest you’ve gone?
King: On the roads? Thirty, I think, is what I’ve done on the roads leading up to this actually just in the past couple of weeks. Thinking about it, yeah, the marathon is probably as long as I’ve raced on the road.
iRunFar: Is that exciting to go longer or is it a bit daunting?
King: Both, actually. It’s exciting because I really want to run fast. Honestly, you’ve got to look at my best ultra races which have been on flattish road-type courses like JFK or Ice Age and stuff like that.
iRunFar: Or UROC a couple years ago.
King: Or UROC a couple of years ago. Yeah, I’m excited to actually run a fast race on the roads and see how fast I can go. I guess I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a little disappointed in the course. Part of it is it’s a world championship and it shouldn’t matter what the course is; you’re going for a world championship. At the same time, how many 100k road races are you actually going to run in your lifetime? Probably not very many, so I wanted it to be a really fast race course. We’ve already all talked about it. It’s not particularly fast. So, I’d be kind of lying if I didn’t way I was a little disappointed in the course. We’ll see.
iRunFar: It will be a PR course, at least?
King: It will be a PR course.
iRunFar: You’ve had an even more diverse season than usual probably this year or maybe a different type of diversity?
King: It’s been a little different, yeah… first 100 miler and stuff.
iRunFar: First 100 miler, other trail races, the obstacle-course racing.
King: Yeah, the obstacle racing and stuff. I haven’t jumped on the track, though. That’s the only thing missing.
iRunFar: Yeah, that’s what I was going to say. More diverse? No, just different diversity. No steeplechasing this year?
King: No track. Nope.
iRunFar: No road marathons?
King: No, no road marathon. I mostly stuck to trail racing with some obstacle racing thrown in there this year. And even longer-distance trail racing—I haven’t done too many short races either.
iRunFar: Have you done anything specific to prepare for this long run on the roads?
King: Yeah, definitely some training. My long runs have been on the road over the past couple of months. Even leading up to Western, I was doing a lot of road running for that, too, just to be able to go fast. I’d do a longer, hillier run on the road one day and then a long road run the next day. That was kind of what I was doing for this race as well.
iRunFar: How long have you sort of worked up with this race as the focus. Obviously before Western States, you were focusing on that.
King: Yeah, I was kind of hoping to get back and start to prepare for this a little bit sooner than I was able to. Western took way more out of me. The last interview we had was after Western, I think, and that race took a lot more out of me than I expected. I was out basically the entire summer trying to get my body back to where I could actually run hard. Even still within the last couple of months or so, I’ve noticed that a long, hard effort one day will take me out for a couple of days. Last year it didn’t do that. The recovery time has actually been longer after the 100 miler than it has been in the years past.
iRunFar: Does it make you less tempted to run another one in the near future?
King: Kind of, yeah.
iRunFar: You had a good experience with the race itself?
King: It was great. I was happy with that and everything. I was really surprised how long it took me to come back from that. Part of it was I was feeling pretty good three weeks after that and I did a hard, hilly 50k—somewhat like Speedgoat but up in Revelstoke. It was probably a bad idea. I felt great for the race. I won it, but I could tell afterwards that it took me a lot longer to recover from that race than it did from Western even. Yeah, it’s been kind of an interesting fall trying to get back into things. Then over the past probably… since September, I’ve been working on this and trying to get things back into this.
iRunFar: This is your first IAU World Championship, but you’ve represented the U.S. before on the cross-country front.
King: Yeah, several times. Road running as well. Then obviously mountain running as well.
iRunFar: You’ve won the World Mountain Running Championships. What has been your experience running for your country?
King: It’s an incredible experience. Every race you go to is always a little bit different, but you end up meeting similar people. Especially if you go back for cross country, you end up meeting people on the teams and stuff. It’s always a little bit different than going to a race over in Europe or something. It’s awesome to represent your country because you feel like a little bit more of a team aspect to races even if… it’s still an individual sport, but like with this race here, we’re definitely focused on that team aspect and trying to go after that team win as well. So you’re much more of a cohesive team than if you’re traveling to a race by yourself. It lends a different dynamic to it.
iRunFar: And you score as a team. It’s not like if you were to go to the same race as Dakota Jones, your Montrail teammate. Okay, you’re teammates and you’re friends, but you’re not scoring together.
King: Right. It is a team sport. So that’s why it gives it a different feel. You’re actually working together as a team and you want your teammates to do well.
iRunFar: Does that mean you change your tactics at all? Are you less aggressive?
King: We’ve been talking about it a little bit, and we’ll see. I don’t know what we’re going to do. We haven’t really come up with anything. We’ve talked about running as a pack for 30 to 50k just with the U.S. team and kind of keying off of each other and using each other for pacing and stuff. Then when that time comes at 50k or so, then trying to work into our own races. Whether that comes about or not, I don’t know. We are all talking about similar paces though, so I think we’ll key off of each other a little bit. There are only a couple other guys that we can really look to, and we don’t want to get caught up in the guys that just go off the front either.
iRunFar: So it can help you stay calm and collected? If you get antsy and are going off the front, a [Michael] Wardian or somebody can be like…
King: Yeah. It will keep us a little bit calmer, keep us talking, keep our mind open until we get to where we really need to race.
iRunFar: What’s it going to be like if you’re… it’s a 20-lap, 5k course. If you’re a lap or two to go and you catch one of your teammates and you’re in fourth and you’re moving into third, how does that…?
King: It’s a race, man. All bets are off.
iRunFar: When you go by your teammate, do you give them a little encouragement?
King: Oh, totally. You would no matter what. Sure. You’d definitely give them some encouragement. What I’ve found is if you’re hurting in a race like that, no amount of encouragement from someone else is really going to do anything anyway. It’s you. You’re the one out there that’s hurting. Everybody that I know at this level of the sport has so much self-motivation that motivation from outside… I don’t know… it doesn’t help me. If I’m hurting, I’m doing everything I can to get myself to move forward. Somebody else coming up behind me saying, “Let’s go, Max,” or “You can do it,” just doesn’t do anything at all. It’s like, “I’m going as hard as I can.” It’s not going to help. So, I don’t know. Yeah, you definitely encourage them, but it’s not going to do much.
iRunFar: You’re in your own head. Individually, what kind of goal do you have at a race like this?
King: I don’t know. Looking at the field and everything and our team, we have a very strong team, there are a couple other guys that are going to be up there for sure. I think between our team and the couple other guys, the winner is going to come out of that. It’s going to be whoever happens to have that good day. Honestly, I’m going for a top-five finish, I think is reasonable. Whoever ends up actually taking it is going to… it’s their luck of the day. It’s whoever is going to be feeling the best on that day. It’s a little bit of luck involved there, I think.
iRunFar: Yeah, anybody in that top-10 is going to be equally prepared and probably equally capable of winning it.
King: Exactly. Everybody has pretty similar times.
iRunFar: Somebody is just going to have “their day.”
King: Exactly. It comes down to who has the day.
iRunFar: One of the interesting thing coming from the U.S., especially coming from the West Coast, it’s an 11-hour difference.
King: It’s an 11-hour difference, yeah. It’s the middle of the night.
iRunFar: You stayed up late.
King: I did. I’m just trying to stay up a little late, so that I’m not… because our race starts at 6 p.m. and goes until midnight or after. I don’t want to be trying to fall asleep at the end of the race or something, but as we get later into the race, it’s actually going to be morning for us which is going to be a little bit different. So I should be starting to wake up, so I don’t know. I can’t figure out what to do.
iRunFar: So you’re just going to sleep when you want to sleep.
King: I guess. I don’t know. I slept too long today, so tonight I know it’s going to be hard to sleep. I don’t know. We’ll see.
iRunFar: You’re excited?
King: Yeah, I’m excited. For sure. Yeah, it’s exciting to be trying to run a fast time on a fast course. Hopefully it ends up being a fast course. I think it will be overall pretty quick, obviously quicker than anything I’ve ever run. It will be good.
iRunFar: There’s been a lot of talk about the weather and the heat and the humidity, but right now, it’s a lot nicer than yesterday.
King: I’m kind of cold right now. The clouds are overhead. What is it? 75?
iRunFar: There’s a nice breeze.
King: Yeah, there’s a little bit of a breeze. I don’t think it’s going to be too much of an issue. It’s going to be a little more humid than we’re used to and warmer than what I’m used to this time of year coming out of summer and stuff. I don’t think it will be that bad.
iRunFar: Alright, Max. Best of luck out there, and thanks for talking.
King: Thank you.