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Max King Wins 100K World Championships, Leads U.S. To Team Title

American runner Max King adds another world championship title to his racing résumé.

Max King won the IAU 100K World Championships on Nov. 21 in Doha, Qatar. It's the second world championship title of King's career.
Max King won the IAU 100K World Championships on Nov. 21 in Doha, Qatar. It’s the second world championship title of King’s career.

American runner Max King adds another world championship title to his racing résumé.

Max King has been one of America’s best and most versatile distance runners for the past several years and he proved it again on Friday night in Doha, Qatar. The 34-year-old runner from Bend, Ore., won the IAAF-sanctioned IAU 100K World Championships, running the 20-lap, 62.1-mile course in 6 hours, 27 minutes, 43 seconds. King averaged 6:14 mile pace and broke Tom Johnson’s 19-year-old 100K U.S. record of 6:30:11. His efforts, along with those of Zach Bitter (6th, 6:48:53) and Zach Miller (9th, 6:51:30), gave the U.S. the team 100K world championship. Michael Wardian (28th, 7:19:00) and Nicholas Accardo (31st, 7:27:41) also ran well for the U.S. men’s team.

Ellie Greenwood, a Scottish-born UK runner who lives in Canada, won her second 100K IAU world title in 7:30:48. The top American women were Meghan Canfield Arbogast (8th, 7:52:12), Pam Reed (10th, 7:59:11) and Amy Sposton (19th, 8:14:02). The UK women won the team world championship, followed by runner-up Japan and the U.S. in third (after original third-place team Russia was DQ’ed).

The win was the second IAAF-sanctioned world title of King’s career, following his victory at the 2011 World Mountain Running Championships. In addition to those exploits, King has been a standout runner in events ranging from the 3,000-meter steeplechase on the track (he was sixth in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials), the marathon (he ran a PR 2:14:36 while placing 19th in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials) and ultra-distance races up to 100 miles (he placed fourth at this year’s Western States 100 in 15:44:45). He’s also won numerous U.S. national titles on the trail from 13.1 miles to 50 miles, as well as three XTERRA Trail Run World Championships. We caught up with King, who is sponsored by Montrail, Mountain Hardwear, Swiftwick, Gu Energy Labs and Flora Health, to get his insights about the race.

What was the course like?

It was a 6 p.m. race start to cut down on heat. It was really quite a nice temperature out for the race. A little warm, but perfect for me. The course was a contrived 5K loop consisting of a couple of out-an-backs. The surface was brutal, transitions from pavers to asphalt to tile made it a very hard race, literally.

How did the race play out? When did you make your break to the finish? When did you know the win was secure and when did you realize you were on American record pace?   

We had a great group running together through almost 50K. I surged, not really meaning to, at that point and got a little gap on the group that was already beginning to break apart. There was one Russian out front that I began to reel in over the next two laps then took the lead with about seven laps (35K) to go. From there, I was just running scared trying to put time on the chasers and keep a consistent pace. It wasn’t until about three laps to go (about 15K left) that I really thought I had a shot at the record as long as I maintained a reasonable pace.

How did you feel at various points in the race? Did you feel great the whole way? Or did you have rough patches? 

I felt really good through about 50k. At about that point, the hard surface started to get to me and my quads were starting to scream. I just hoped they didn’t get any worse and shut me down. Luckily they held up, but everything got worse with each lap after that. I was hurting pretty bad with about five laps (25K) to go and was just trying to hold it together. I started to count down the laps with about eight to go and couldn’t wait to be done. My energy levels were great though and very steady, so no low patches there, just a general ache in the legs.

What was it like racing in Doha? Was there good fan support or any fan support?

The facilities at the Aspire complex are so modern and the nicest sports facility I’ve ever seen, so really it could have been like running anywhere. It was very devoid of the local culture. I was surprised to see that we had more local support than I would have expected. There were quite a few people out watching and cheering.

How does this victory rank among your career highlights? Where does it rank with your WMRC title?

I would say this is one of the top victories I’ve accomplished. The hurt and how deep I had to dig for this makes it pretty special. The fact that seven or eight guys went under 7 hours attests to the high level of competition as well—something that there hasn’t been at many of the past 100K championships. I’d say it’s right on par with that World Mountain Running Championship title (in 2011). It’s a true IAAF World Championship and those always hold a special place in the sporting arena.