Max King, Pikes Peak Marathon
Interview by Kurt McIntire
11 24 19
Today let's meet Max King, professional trail runner from Bend, Oregon. At 39 years old, Max is one of the United State's best runners. His impressive list of accomplishments include a wide variety of race styles. From road races, to trail races, to sky races, Max King is gold-tier.
- 1st place, 2011 World Mountain Running Championships.
- 1st place, 2014 IAU 100km World Championships.
- 1st place, 2016 NACAC Cross Country Championships.
- 1st place, 2019 Mount Marathon
- 1st place, 2019 Broken Arrow Sky Race Vertical K
This summer, Max placed 21st at the highly competitive Pikes Peak Marathon. This grueling single-track Manitou, Colorado course climbs from 6,300-ft to 14,115-ft, then back down again.
GL: How'd you train for the altitude?
MK: Coming from Bend, Oregon we don’t have the kind of altitude you see at Pikes Peak. The highest peak in my state is 11,000-ft, so I did what I could do. I worked at a running camp in Southeast Oregon, where the top of the mountain is 10,000-ft. I spent two weeks up there running, then spent a few weeks at 7,000-ft in Tahoe.
GL: What is it like racing above 12,000-ft?
MK: Half of Pikes Peak is above 10,000-ft, so that 12-14,000-ft range is a huge struggle. I don’t have nausea or headaches going that high anymore. Sleeping in an altitude tent off and on over the years has taken away all those symptoms. So for me, above 12,000-ft, it's all about the cardio impact.
GL: What was the course like?
MK: Wide single track. Rocky and wide, 5-ft wide. 11-12% most of the way. There were a couple of sections where you get some relief, especially in the middle of the climb. Up top, it levels out a bit, but the peak itself is still 2-miles off. At the peak, the final climb was a struggle. Once I hit the top, I figured coming back down would be great, but it was actually super hard. With plantar fasciitis in both feet, I wasn't confident on my downhill. Trying to balance was tough.
Max King's Pikes Peak Marathon #gearlist:
Watch: Suunto 9
MK: This watch's quality is super high. It's made for an adventure based lifestyle. The Suunto app has a mapping function that you can use to add routes onto the watch. I use that when I’m on an unfamiliar route. Turn by turn directions help me feel safer. This model has a metal bezel and sapphire glass. I wear a leather strap for aesthetic reasons. Then, I pair the watch with an external heart rate monitor, which is for tempo runs and racing.
Shoes: Salomon S/Lab Sense 7 SG
MK: I typically wear the Salomon Sense Soft Ground model. It has great lugs for better traction. They're light, fast, and about as great a shoe you can get. The lugs splay a little bit when you start slipping on hard rock and sliding terrain, giving extra traction. The lugs also flatten a little bit, giving extra cushioning. Since I was dealing with some injuries before Pikes Peak Marathon, I wore a prototype Salomon Sense model that's twice as thick through the mid-sole, and has minimal rubber on the toe and heel.
Socks: Swiftwick VISION Five Spirit
MK: For socks, I wear Swiftwick. People neglect socks, but they're a pretty big deal. Socks are that important connection between the foot and shoe. You need moisture wicking so you don’t have blisters. These Swiftwick's are thin, snug fitting, and don’t roll around inside the shoe. I wear a crew, a 4-inch or a 7-inch. Lately I've been wearing the 7-inch for the fun of it.