Max King is a trail running legend.
He is a four-time XTERRA Trail Run World Champ, the 2014 100K World Champ, and in 2011, he won the World Mountain Running Championship. A steeplechaser in college, Max has run a 2:14 marathon, and has won at almost every distance from 5K to 50K. He’s so tough, he’s rumored to have run a race shirtless with his number pinned to his chest.
Max is still training and racing hard, and has been spending a good portion of the spring in China, where trail running is rapidly gaining in popularity. He recently took a break from climbing mountains and running on yak trails to talk to us about his passion project: the Max King Trail Running Camps for both kids and adults.
Q. What makes trails so alluring? Why don’t we get the same experience on the roads?
A. Trail running is a lifestyle. It transcends running and is more about traveling somewhere beautiful on your own two feet under your own power. Trail running is more about freedom and being outside than performance. The paradox of that is that when you are out there for the sheer love of the sport, that’s when you’re going to start doing some incredible things.
Q. Why a trail running camp?
A. We created the Max King Trail Running Camps last year, not just as another way to help kids get outside, but to help teach kids valuable outdoor skills. Most importantly, I want both the youth and adults to come away from a week with us feeling like they are more comfortable in the backcountry and that pushing their limits can be done in a safe and fun way.
I've always felt like in this format, you, as a participant, should be taking more away from the week than just some miles on your legs. You should be learning a ton and coming out of it a different person than what you came in.
Q. What’s a day in your camp like?
A. During the week, we focus on trail running with an emphasis on fun and staying safe while out in the wild. We do a map and compass workshop and a short orienteering race on Day 1 because it’s a huge tool for anyone to have.
Another day we have is our Epic Day, where we are covering ground all day. Just picking ‘em up and putting ‘em down. The point of this is to get the kids comfortable being outside all day and learning how to prepare for that. It’s one of their favorite days because of the sense of accomplishment they get. Last year, we went 17 miles in 6 hours with about 4000 feet of elevation gain.
Q. What do you teach kids about nature and the environment?
A. We spend an entire day on stewardship. You can tell someone that building and maintaining trail is a lot of work, but when you actually participate in a day of trail maintenance you truly come to understand that the trails we enjoy took years of labor to create.
Q. What do you think about the way US kids currently come up through running programs?
A. This could potentially be a very long answer. There are some very different systems throughout the world as to how youth come up through sport. The US is unique in that we put a huge emphasis on competition through high school and college in the traditional disciplines of track and cross-country.
Kenya is different. France is different. There’s no right way – just different ways. If you are talking about trail running in particular, right now, France is churning out way more talent than Kenya due to how they develop their youth and get them on the mountains.
Q. How does someone register for your camp?
A. Our kids camp is sold out for the summer, but we still have a few spots in the adult camp from September 20-24th, just 3 days after XTERRA Nationals in Utah on September 17th. You can get on the wait list and learn more at www.maxkingtrc.com