Robert Killian: there are many words that have been used to describe this man. Athlete, father, army ranger, husband, champion. Have you ever looked at successful people and wondered …what got them here?
I had the pleasure of speaking with Robert a few days prior to the Spartan World Championships. We discussed everything from the World Championship race and his 2019 seasons to how he got into OCR, how he balances training/family life and where he sees his future in OCR. I really enjoyed my conversation with Robert. He is personable, straight forward and really just normal guy.
Robert arrived on the OCR scene in 2015 just a mere four months before he won the 2015 World Championships launching him into the OCR spotlight. So let's take a step back and talk about the man Robert Killian prior to stepping into the OCR spotlight.
Robert grew up in South Carolina where his uncle, who also served in the military, was a positive influence on his life. As a result at 18, Robert followed in his uncle's footsteps and joined the Army. He served his country on active duty for 12 years which included two deployments. One for fifteen months in Iraq and another for three months in Northern Africa. Robert was heavily involved in all Army sports and req teams. Being involved in these teams is what led him to compete in the Ironman World Championships and Best Ranger Competition.
His first OCR race was Breckenridge, three previous winners of Best Ranger competition had signed up for this race so he dived right in. Four months later he found himself in Tahoe at the World Championships. The rest, as we say, is history.
Killian on Training
Fun fact: Robert doesn’t run more than 30-50 miles each week. He cross-trains, has built multiple rigs at home, and does quite a bit of mountain biking. He’s found the older he gets, the smarter he needs to train. and the importance of mixing up his training. Robert makes his weaknesses his strength. A perfect example of this is his mountain climbing. The man can eat up elevation for breakfast. He admits when he started in OCR he was terrible at climbs, mainly due to the fact he grew up in South Carolina, a fairly flat state. Fast forward to today and one could argue climbs are one of his strongest areas.
He also doesn’t separate strength training from a workout. He likes to program high intensity or functional fitness into his workouts. For example, he will use a bucket or sandbag carry as a cool down. Sometimes he will throw in a power hour type format to revamp/refresh and wake up. Another workout he will do is an EMOM (Every Minute on the Minute) for one hour. An example of this is to work grip strength /20 push ups/30 air squats.
Killian on Family
Balancing training and home life is hard. However, Robert tries to include his little Killians as much as he can. When his son and daughter were younger, he included them in his training. Robert even stated that when they were a couple of years younger, he was probably in the best shape he’s ever been. He credits this to the fact that they liked to hang on dad while he did pull-ups. Now at six and four, taking them to races is a little harder with school but he tries to include them as much as he can. None of this would be possible without his wife Maxine by his side either.
Killian on Sponsors
He jokes that he feels like a NASCAR driver since his gear is covered with various sponsor patches. In a sport where sponsorship is heavily coveted, Killian does his research. Long before he was a sponsored athlete, he was a consumer of Ascent, Tailwind, and Locklaces to name a few. He doesn’t agree to a sponsorship just to get the paycheck, he needs to stand behind the product. Prior to his win in 2015, he didn’t have social media, however, he was approached by various companies and they all asked if he had social media as it was becoming critical for sponsored athletes. The next day joined Instagram. For those looking to take that next step in the world of OCR, take note. Do your research and be ready to stand behind the product you are endorsing, and make sure they will stand behind you. To keep track he is sponsored by Lock Laces, Yokohama Tire, Darn Tough Vermont, Craft SportsWear, Ascent protein, PurePower, ATP Science, Luminox, and Tailwind Nutrition.
Killian on Pre-race Jitters
When you have so much on the line, having pre-race jitters isn’t a surprise. Robert talked candidly about having some pretty bad anxiety the night before a race. He’d wake up with a 160 bpm heart rate the night before a race. Thankfully he talked with good friend Cody Moate about this. Cody experienced the same exact thing and was able to provide some insight into coping. He suggested to go back to focusing on the race and having fun. Throw expectations out the window and don’t overthink it. Remember why you race and go out and have fun. Once you do that most of the pressure comes off.
Killian on the Future of OCR and his Future
Make no mistake, Robert isn’t looking to walk away from this sport any time soon. He has shown he still has a lot left in the tank, especially after this past year's Championship performance. Robert is also looking to compete in Sparta at the Trifecta Weekend and the Ultra World Championships in Sweden.
However, he has noticed that, so far, there seems to be a threshold for athletes in OCR. He has seen it with Amelia Boone, Coady Moate, etc. He will admit that he views OCR as a stepping stone for him and acknowledges he is getting older. Add to the fact that there is zero offseason, the longevity of athletes at a certain level may shorten. He hopes to put in a few more years with the Army and retire after 20 years of service. He still plans to continue to coach athletes with his Dark Horse coaching program and work with his sponsors on creating gear specifically for OCR athletes. In addition,Robert will continue to work with Spartan to move the needle forward and evolve the sport. He's one to give critical, constructive feedback and make recommendations on how to make the sport better.
I'd like to say a huge congratulations to Robert on all his achievements thus far. They have all been well deserved and I look forward to seeing what the next few years hold for this incredible athlete. I also hope you win that million dollars!