Elite Distance Runner Max King To Tackle Western States 100

Max King has raced numerous distances on the roads, track and trails over the past 10 years, but he's running 100 miles for the first time. Photo: Scott Markewitz

How will one of the country’s most accomplished runners fare at 100 miles?

Max King, 34, has long been a proponent of running different distances and surfaces as a way to become a stronger runner. His career highlights include a 2:14:36 marathon PR, a victory at the 2011 World Mountain Running Championships and a sixth-place finish in the 3000-meter steeplechase at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. He’s also won numerous U.S. trail running titles and experienced breakout success on the obstacle course racing circuit (he says obstacle races are like cross country races on steroids).

King is having another good year in 2014, with a course record (3:35:42) at the Chuckanut 50K on March 15 in Fairhaven, Wash., and a victory at the Ice Age Trail 50-mile run (5:41:07) on May 10 in La Grange, Wis.

Now the Bend, Ore., resident is ready to add a 100-miler to his running resume. King is heading to Squaw Valley, Calif., to participate in the June 28-29 Western States Endurance Run (WSER), the world’s oldest 100-mile trail race.

What made you decide this was the time to run a 100-miler?

I’ve been interested in Western States a long time and have qualified before (four other times through Montrail Cup races), but I’ve always had another event on the calendar in June. This year my calendar was open, but I had to chase down a qualifying race.

Are you nervous?

This is 100 miles—40 miles more than I’ve run before. I’m scared to death about the distance! I’m not going into it with any expectations. It would help to be able to compare the course to something else I’ve run, but it’s really different than anything I’ve ever done. I’m saying my goal is to finish in less than 24 hours and earn a silver belt buckle (sub-24 hour finishers earn a silver belt buckle and sub 30-hour finishers earn a bronze belt buckle).

RELATED: Western States Course Preview Video

How have you changed your training to prepare for racing 100 miles?

I’ve upped my mileage in the last few months and I’m more focused on doing doubles—like a 20-mile hilly day on trails done back-to-back with a 20-mile fast day on roads where I really try to hammer it out. I’ve been doing some heat training—and getting lots of weird looks around town when I’m out in a hat and coat on a warm day! I went to the Western States Training Camp over Memorial Day weekend, and that was a good opportunity to see the course. I’ve have managed to run all but about 15 miles of it. It’s much more runnable than I expected, plus the trail is in better shape.

Mentally, how are you going to approach 100 miles?

It really helps me to break long distances down into smaller segments. I usually look at big sections in 10-mile chunks and divide things by landmarks. For this, my first big section is the first 30 miles to Robinson Flat. My next big section is the 30 miles up to Forest hill. After that I’ll see how I’m feeling and will probably focus on going from aid station to aid station.

RELATED: The Essence Of Running 100 Miles

Are you making any race-day changes to fueling, hydration or gear? 

For fuel, I’m just doing gels. It works for me in a 100K, so I’m sticking with it.

I usually just use a hydration belt. But I’m expecting this race to be hot and there are some long stretches between aid stations. So I’m going to carry handhelds with water, plus wear my Ultraspire MBS Belt system.

And, I’ve changed up my shoes to the Montrail FluidFlex. They have more cushioning than I usually wear, and it feels good for distance. I used them when I qualified for Western States at the Ice Age Trail 50.

You’ve decided against running with a pacer, why?

I’m in this to race against myself, to do what I can do. We’ll see how it goes.

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