Allegheny Alumnus Trailblazing the Way for Endurance Runners

Traversing 100 miles of craggy terrain through dust clouds and vertical mountain grades is not for the faint of heart. Allegheny College alumnus, Lamont King ‘95, pushes through the formidable physical pain with a fierce mental strength that perhaps only ultramarathon runners can understand, let alone endure.

“The beauty of running long distances is that you can think about anything or nothing at all,” says King. “I often fall into a meditative or flow state where I’m just present with the simple act of running. Other times I access the jukebox in my head and call up whatever song is appropriate for the circumstances.”

The political science major and black studies minor recently joined the Board of Directors for the Western States Endurance Run (WSER), the world’s oldest 100-mile trail race, which begins in over 7,000 feet of altitude in Olympic Valley, California and ends 100.2 miles later in Auburn, California.

King was immediately drawn to distance running after watching A Race for the Soul, an independent film chronicling both elite ultra-marathoners and recreational runners competing in the Western States race. The story follows competitors on the overnight journey through the Sierra Nevada mountains, documenting the arduous course that requires participants to climb over 17,500 feet and descend 22,970 feet in temperatures that range from nearly freezing to over 100 degrees.

“At the time, I couldn’t really wrap my head around running 100 miles, but there was part of me that wanted to try,” says King. “It wasn’t until years later that I signed up for my first ultramarathon, and after running 50K, 50 mile, and 100K races, I decided to try 100 miles. From there, it was a quest to get into Western States and it took 7 years to come to fruition.”

Once King hit the Western States trail, it took him over 27 hours to complete, but he was officially hooked.

“I ran with gratitude and really soaked up the experience of the trail, the other runners, the volunteers, and friends I encountered along the way,” King says. “I’m left with a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction that is hard to explain.”

The Cleveland, Ohio native resides in Northern California, where he serves as deputy general counsel for the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, the world’s largest educator-only pension fund. King credits his time at Allegheny College for cracking open his passion for law. During his senior year, he served on the College Judicial Board, which helped inspire his Senior Comprehensive Project that covered the use of temporary insanity as a defense in criminal prosecutions.

“My undergraduate experience was very influential on my career,” says King. “It was wonderful to meet people from across the U.S. and around the world. I learned a lot about myself and others; it’s a perspective that I draw upon every day. I also value having received an education that is applicable in so many contexts.”

When looking back at his time in Meadville, King recalls a scenic campus, diverse student body, and esteemed professors like Howard Tamashiro Ph.D. and Robert G. Seddig Ph.D. as highlights that helped shape his future. After graduating from Allegheny, King returned to Cleveland to study law at Case Western Reserve University.

During his first year in law school, King traveled to Costa Rica for a study abroad program where he met a fellow law student from Los Angeles, California, who would later become his wife. After receiving his law degree, King made the leap to move to California in pursuit of his budding new love interest and his career in law.

“When I chose to attend law school I didn’t really think I would practice law. I mainly wanted to learn about the law and hone my critical thinking skills. I figured having a JD [Juris Doctor] could help my career prospects,” King says. “I did not anticipate that I would eventually find a great fit as an attorney with the California State Teachers’ Retirement System.”

King, a lifelong athlete and fitness enthusiast, has now completed over 50 ultramarathons, and hopes to continue exploring the sport of endurance running both on and off the trails as the newest board member for the WSER Foundation.

“As a board member, I have the opportunity to contribute in an even more meaningful way, which includes helping the Western States Endurance Run Foundation meet its mission to create a supportive, inclusive and welcoming environment, and serving as a leader in the growing sport of ultrarunning,” says King.