Since he was a kid he has run in 589 races and he has no intention of unlacing his running shoes.
“It’s kind of an natural high … it just heightens the self-esteem and as a young person I think that people need that,” Thomas said.
Originally from Cumberland House Reserve, Thomas, who is Metis, now travels around the province competing in races small and large.
When he’s not racing he’s trying to inspire Native youth to find their passion.
“It doesn’t have to be, necessarily, running. You could be an artist, you could be a writer. Just go for something,” he said.
He believes Native youth in particular need more positive role models.
“Young aboriginal youth have it stuck in their head that they’re not good enough … ‘What are you talking about? What barrier is there?’ It’s just a mentality … It’s just a barrier that isn’t there. And I just want to show them that. Go for something in life. I’m just trying to get them to believe in themselves.”
“When I was a kid I really had nobody to look up to. So I thought well, I had no one to look up to … now I want to be that guy to encourage kids,” he said.
Thomas isn’t afraid to make a splash, as travels to reserves to race in local events that he is basically guaranteed to win because he trains so much.
Despite that not everyone is happy when he shows up, he feels that he is promoting something positive, especially in the young people.
“I go and talk to kids after the race. I say like ‘hey, I was your age when I started doing this,’ … and give them some inspiration,” he said.
While running came naturally to Thomas, it hasn’t all been easy, especially since none of his own friends are driven to run.
“This was just more or less a venting mechanism so I didn’t get in trouble. So it kept me out of trouble, as a young boy.”
While it began as a way to deal with life’s hurdles, it quickly developed into a passion to push further as well as a way to make money.
“I never thought I’d be competing or anything. It was just something I loved to do.”
The sense of freedom he has always garnered from making his legs take him as fast and as far as he could go has never waned.
“You get all pumped up … I don’t know how to describe it. I mean, just the freedom to just get up and just go.”
Running professionally is a serious commitment.
“It’s just a lifestyle that I’ve chosen and it has a lot of great rewards,” he said.
However like any commitment it also means he has made sacrifices.
It takes five weeks to get ready for a race and there is a lot of personal sacrifice involved, he explained.
“Young aboriginal youth have it stuck in their head that they’re not good enough … ‘What are you talking about? What barrier is there?’ It’s just a mentality … It’s just a barrier that isn’t there. - Ken Thomas
“You can’t go out partying and then expect to do good in a race. It’s just not going to happen,” he said.
Apart from running, Thomas is involved in his larger community in a number of ways.
He volunteers at the food shelter, and donates blood regularly, which he learned was important when his uncle, one of his strongest supporters, was on dialysis.
Giving blood is something he feels is important.
“Somebody needs it more than I do.”
Thomas has also done a couple of presentations about running in schools and hopes to do more. He is now communicating with organizers of the Summer Games in the hopes of assisting as a coach for some of the young athletes.
Some of the races he has run include the Police Half-marathon, the Brain Freeze Half-marathon, the Saskatchewan Marathon, the Summit Run, and he is currently considering the Lost Soul Ultra-marathon in September.
Mike Horn and Fresh Air Experience are sponsoring him as he strives for those finish lines.
“I lead by example. I do what I say and I mean what I say and I go for it,” he said.
“If you win enough times there’s no way that no one can say no to you.”