It's Good To Be King - Page 4
King cruises the beautiful single track of Smith Rock State Park, one of his favorite training grounds near Bend. Photo by Rickey Gates.
For my brief visit, I accepted King’s offer for a place to sleep. He led me into what the Kings simply call “Max’s Room,” and what I took to calling the “Running Lab.” Medals and trophies were scattered about haphazardly. Several generations of official USA singlets covered one section of wall, while on neighboring shelves 87 pairs of running shoes in various stages of mileage decomposition spilled from their nooks. Atlases, maps and travel guides shared a shelf with hunting guides and a half-dozen knives. Past the treadmill and off in the corner was my accommodation—an oxygen tent set up on the floor. Max assured me that he doesn’t use it all the time. He will crawl in there for a few weeks before big races such as the Olympic Trials or the World Mountain Running Championships.
The Kings’ four-year-old son, Micah, followed us into the room. He is sturdy, blond and, like most kids that age, chock-full of energy.
“Are you as fast as your dad?” I asked him.
“My dad’s really, really fast,” he said. “But I’m really, really, really, really, [repeat eight times] fast.” An old photo showed a nearly identical King at the same age running along the Rogue River in full stride.
Like so many other runners, King didn’t so much choose the sport as, through a process of deduction, the sport chose him. In other words, King sucked at team sports. “I used to crush the other kids in the PE mile, though.” He went on to explain that though he may have been the fastest kid in his PE class, what he lacked was the raw talent that a youngster needed to be really, really, really, really, [repeat eight times] fast. That, he explained, has come with time and dedication.
I asked about a plaque on the wall congratulating King for an All-American steeplechase finish in the NCAA Championships from 10 years ago, where he finished 12 seconds slower than his most recent Steeplechase time of 8:30. The All-American honor is one of his proudest running moments, he says. “We need those successes over time as confirmation of progress. Running is a sport that builds on itself. Those wins and accomplishments help you bounce to the next level.” Covering nearly two decades of running, “Max’s Room” is a testament to the sport being a cumulative effort over time.