King’s victory comes a week after a sub-2:20 performance in the ING New York City Marathon.
Written by: Bryon Powell
Last weekend, Ashland, Oregon played host to the Lithia Loop Trail Marathon – this and next year’s USATF trail marathon national championships. Two days prior to the race, the forecast called for cold rain low on the course and snow at its higher elevations. Fortunately, the foul weather held off for most of the day with only a few muddy patches along the way.
With the firing of the gun, racers sped up the initial eight-mile climb from 2,200 feet to nearly 5,000 feet above sea level at Upper Horn Gap. Max King of Bend, Oregon headlined a highly credentialed field with many runners from near and far sporting 2:30 or better personal bests in the marathon. King, a former American team member at the World Cross Country Championships and an Olympic trials steeplechaser, joined three others in charging up the mountainous climb from the start. King bound up the pitch along side the geographically diverse group of Sam Robinson (Berkeley, California), Aaron Saft (Fletcher, North Carolina), and Jim Johnson (Salem, New Hampshire).
King and the rest of the lead pack split up as the primarily dirt road course flattened out between miles 8 and 20. Running in the lead, King pushed his tired legs to maintain it. This was his second marathon in as many weekends. A week earlier, King ran a 2:19:11 at the New York City Marathon, which was good enough for 18th place in the Big Apple.
Back home in Oregon, neither the 2,200 foot descent over the final six miles nor his competitors could defeat King. He won in a time of 2:40:23 and broke Jeff Caba’s course record by two minutes. Robinson finished just two and a half minutes (2:42:54) behind King to take second. Saft earned third with a 2:48:42. Greg McMillan (2:54:50) of Arizona moved up into fourth while Johnson (2:56:57) fell back into fifth. McMillan’s fourth place was good enough for the master’s win.
The women’s race sorted itself out more quickly than the men’s race. By the second mile, Cynthia Arnold of Lexington, Kentucky had taken the lead, which she would hold the rest of the day. The only hiccup in Arnold’s victory was her getting lost before the final aid station. She learned she was off course when race officials noticed her come into the aid station from the wrong direction. She retraced half a mile to where she went off course and still won by over 7 minutes with a time of 3:08:42.
The rest of the top four also held their positions from mile two to the finish. Washington’s Becca Ward (3:16:14) held on to her second position, but barely. Ward had to hold off a late push by California’s Devon Crosby-Helms (3:16:20), who finished just 6 seconds behind Ward. Krissy Moehl from Seattle claimed fourth with her 3:17:58. Ellen Parker, also from Seattle, rounded out the top five in a time of 3:30:40. Kate Lapides came down from Breckenridge, Colorado to take the master’s crown (3:48:57 – 8th overall).