It’s easy to pick out Lamont Thomas’ booming voice in the crowded Café Aroma. His laugh carries through the Shoreline coffee shop, drowning the buzz of people and clinking mugs. Thomas, sporting his favorite Julius “Dr. J” Erving jersey, lets his long legs hang loosely off the stool and grins infectiously.
He wears many hats: mentor, comedian, businessman, writer, runner. But as someone who was once told he’d never walk again, it’s the last one that has Thomas beaming with pride.
“I like Richmond Beach,” he says of his favorite running spot. “It’s like a present afterwards. You go down to the beach, you look at it for a second, and you’re like, ‘I made it,’ and then you run back.”
Perhaps better known in Shoreline as “The Running Man,” Thomas, who turns 30 at the end of this month, released his autobiography co-written with Ashley M. Graham this spring. The book begins the day a 2-year-old Thomas was hit by a car, launching him into the air before coming down on the rough pavement. The collision left him with extensive injuries including broken limbs, a shattered skull and severe brain trauma. Thomas would need a miracle to survive.
Fortunately, a nearby doctor performed CPR until paramedics arrived and transported him to Harborview. Still, doctors believed he’d never walk again given the amount of brain trauma he experienced. The road to recovery would be the fight of his life.
After the accident, Thomas was partially paralyzed on his right side and was fit with a plastic vest and halo to prevent further damage to his neck and jaw. He was initially confined to a wheelchair, dealing with scoliosis, but eventually learned to walk using a four-wheeled walker.
Thomas spent his childhood in and out of hospitals, battling self-doubt, bullies and feeling left out. His scoliosis kept him from childhood activities most kids take for granted.
“I basically said look, you wanna hurt, I’ll give you a reason to. So, I started walking on it. Of course it was painful,” Thomas says, recalling those first steps. “My back was stressed, my scoliosis was stressed. ... I got addicted to pain because I wanted to be outside so bad, that I got used to it.”
To this day, Thomas deals with constant pain throughout his body as a result of the accident. But learning to walk again has been worth the pain.
Through extensive therapy and the thrill of proving people wrong, he was able to ditch the walker at age 16. Over time and constantly pushing himself he turned his walk into a run. His body is still more susceptible to injury than most his age, but he now clocks 84 miles a week.
His book, The Running Miracle, chronicles his early-life obstacles and others he’s face after relearning to walk, like how he’s always replacing his shoes because his right leg drags when he walks or runs.
Thomas has been in the spotlight before with an NPR interview, a Los Angeles Times profile. He’s proud to share his story, acknowledging important people who helped him along the way, including his elementary school gym teacher, Royages Easton, who believed Thomas could do whatever he put his mind to, walker or no. It still motivates Thomas.
For Thomas, his book it’s more than sharing his life moments. “This whole thing in the book is trying to inspire the kids and people that have been told otherwise,” he says. “If my story can inspire a purpose for you or what I’ve been through can help you reach your dream, I’m doing something right.”
Thomas’ incredible journey is about giving strength to those that feel they don’t have any.
“When I’m walking and running I’m always in pain. But the fact kids are watching, people are watching and they’re so happy and inspired when they see me, it makes me happy. That’s my endorphin high. Other than walking, seeing people smile and giving them hope and inspiration, it’s good enough for me.”
Thomas will be reading at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park at 7 p.m. Sept. 6.