It's Good To Be King - Page 5
16 HONEST MILES
The following morning King and I drove just past the city’s edge where 10-acre desert plots dotted the land, reminiscent more of New Mexico than of what I generally associate with Oregon. As we approached Cline Butte he explained that a typical week of running includes two speed workouts and one long run of four to five hours. The rest of his runs, including the 16 miles of hills we were about to tackle, get filed under “easy, rest days.”
As we set off from the car, I was struck again by something that I’d noted in the past. Max King in motion is an amalgamation of perfect engineering. Every step is mechanical and precise. He leads off with a measured stride, elbows tucked in close to his chest, knees driving high. In light racing flats, he bounces precisely off the front of his feet.
Without reference to another runner beside him, as has often been the case in recent years, it often goes unnoticed that at 5'6" King is actually quite small. Add to that frame 135 pounds of thick muscle mass, and the sheer, brute speed of a 5000- or 10,000-meter event on the track was never much of an option for him. “My size just means I need to be more efficient,” he explained. “It’s made me concentrate on my form.”
Though the answer to my most burning question was making itself ever more clear to me, I was nonetheless curious how King, himself, would reply.
“How did you get to be so fast at so many distances?”
He laughed in a way that suggested he has been asked the question before. “It’s all running,” King insisted. “From 3K to 50 miles, it’s just running.” However, he continued, “Up to a half-marathon it’s balls to the wall. Any longer and you have to think about it.”
And that’s what King has made a career out of—thinking about the 3000-meter Steeplechase, thinking about the three up-and-down laps of the World Mountain Running Championships, thinking about the 50 miles of Appalachian Trail and tarmac for the JFK 50. “I’m always trying to figure out different things, paying attention to all the different variables.”
“He hangs back at the start of a race when everybody is destroying themselves,” Skaggs had told me. “After that he goes through and picks up all the pieces.”
From the top of Cline Butte, King paused to point out an outcrop of volcanoes known as the Sisters where he often runs during the summer months. Past the Sister, over the horizon, King pointed to where Mount Hood would stick up if it were a little bit taller. He says that if he were to have a list of favorite runs in the world, the circumnavigation of Mount Hood would be at the top. The 42- mile effort takes him all day and is always done with group of close friends. “It gets back to the heart of running.”