Max King and Fiona Docherty Win XTERRA Trail Running World Championships

Written By: Bryon Powell

Monday night’s temperature of nearly 20 degrees below zero in Bend, Oregon must have shocked Max King, as only a few hours earlier he had been enjoying Hawaii’s tropical warmth. The fact that King returned to Bend as the XTERRA Trail Running World Champion for the second year in a row should have shocked no one.

King, Bruce, and Gray battle early on. Photo: Nils Nilsen/XTERRA
King, Bruce, and Gray battle early on. Photo: Nils Nilsen/XTERRA

This past weekend, Kualoa Ranch on the island of Oahu played host to this championship trail half marathon. Since last year, the race’s first year, organizers modified the course to add more climbing and more technical single-track trail. Now portions of the trail are little more than narrow passages slashed through thick jungle. Imagine a person running through jungle in the movie Jurassic Park or the television series Lost – both were filmed on the Ranch – and you get a sense for the location and trails.

While the trail was more difficult than last year, the changes shortened the course. It’s unclear whether the race was actually closer to 12 or 13 miles, but it was likely somewhere in between those distances.

Reports are that the weather was warmer than last year and that the 80-degree temperatures, humidity, and tropical sun combined to make exposed parts of the course uncomfortable. However, the runners often found refuge under the jungle canopy.

On the racing front, it was a three-man race from the gun with King, Joseph Gray (Lakewood, Washington), and Ben Bruce (Eugene, Oregon) quickly gapping the field. It took King and Gray barely 5k to shake Bruce as well.

Gray is an extremely talented mountain runner. With that in mind, King believed he needed to open up a gap on Gray before hitting a significant climb late in the race. Beginning around mile six or seven, King repeatedly upped the effort on climbs and descents while letting Gray close the gap on flatter sections.

Fiona cruising amidst Hawaii's splendor. Photo: Nils Nilsen/XTERRA
Fiona cruising amidst Hawaii's splendor. Photo: Nils Nilsen/XTERRA

King opened up a 40 second lead going into the final large climb. A tired Gray could not respond. By the finish, King (1:14:26) had opened up a three-minute lead on Gray to take home the $2,000 purse. Gray held on to the second spot with a time of 1:17:21. Bruce’s 1:20:43 was good enough for third.

On the women’s side, last year’s winner, Cindy Anderson of Hawaii returned. To once again take home the championship, she would have to beat Heather Fuhr (Encinitas, California), the winner of 15 Ironman triathlons including the 1997 world championships, and Fiona Docherty (Boulder, Colorado/New Zealand), the 2003 duathlon world champion.

Docherty needed no bike to pull away from Fuhr and Anderson. Anderson went out hard, but Docherty passed her after a mile. Fuhr and Anderson would chase her all race to no avail. The Kiwi broke the tape in 1:30:05.

The battle for second between Anderson and Fuhr lasted longer. Fuhr led Anderson through six miles. Anderson battled through the heat and wicked descents to move past Fuhr and claim second with a time of 1:33:01. Fuhr finished five minutes behind Anderson in 1:38:01, which brought her to the finish in third.

Bryon Powell is a competitive trail runner, coach and editor of iRunFar.

2009 XTERRA Trail Running World Championships Photo Gallery