by Brian Ansley

epicman challengeRecently, I was provided the unique opportunity to speak with one of the most inspiring athletes of our time.  His name is Jason Lester.  Aside from being one of the greatest athletes alive, Jason is also an author, coach, public speaker and founder of the Never Stop Foundation.  Jason spoke with me from his training grounds in Hawaii, which is also where he currently lives.  Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, he moved to Manhattan Beach, California at the age of sixteen after getting into racing.

The first thing I noticed about Jason was how humble he was about all of hisjason lest achievements.  He said, “The reason I do it is to inspire others.”  Jason also helps to spread his inspiration through his coaching programs.  “I don’t [coach] to make money”, he said, and continued, “I do it to share the experience with others.”

As a public speaker, Jason has presented to Microsoft, universities, elementary schools, charity organizations, triathlon clubs in addition to many other instititutions.  Last August, Jason also published his first book entitled “Running on Faith.”  This book demonstrates to his readers how he overcame his hardships and pushed forward to achieve his aspirations in life.

jason bookIn 2008, Jason became the first person with a disability to finish the Ultraman World Championship.  In 2009, he was the fifteenth athlete in the history of Ultraman to complete both the Ultraman World Championship and Ultraman Canada in the same year.  Also, he became the first male triathlete to win an ESPY Award for Best Male Athlete with a Disability.  When Lester was twelve years old he was hit by a car while riding his bike.  He suffered a multitude of life-threatening injuries including a punctured lung and twenty-one broken bones.  Ultimately, Lester recovered, but he left the hospital with a paralyzed right arm.

He’s no stranger to overcoming obstacles, and his win at the ESPY Awards is proof that his story resonates with the voters.  Lester said about his 2009 win that “It was great because ESPN nominates you, but the people vote for you.”  He continued saying, “Sitting in the same room as Michael Phelps was just a great honor in itself.”

I asked Jason about his upcoming EPICMAN Challenge taking place in Oahu, Hawaii from December 29, 2011 through January 1, 2012.  Spartan Race’s own Jason Jaksetic is poised to compete in the race as well.  He went on to tell me that part of the insight was derived from the EPIC 5: 5 straight days of Ironman distance triathlons that he participated in earlier this year.  “I always look for several ways to up the ante.”

The EPICMAN Challenge is without a doubt one of the hardest events in ultra-triathlon competition. EPICMAN is a 7.2 mile swim, 336 mile bike, and a 78.6 mile run.  All of these tasks must be completed without stopping.  “EPICMAN is actually a character,” Jason admitted.  There will only be 24 athletes attending the EPICMAN, and it is by invitation only.  “We have 12 athletes already,” he said.

Jason also told me how he wants the race to be much more for the athletes. “I want them to experience the island.”  Jason expressed to me how he would like to expand EPICMAN Challenge to other states, and not limit it to Hawaii.  So for all you Spartans that think you are up for the challenge, EPICMAN may be coming your way soon!

Jason is definitely not taking any time off before the EPICMAN Challenge in December.jason 306 He is preparing right now for a 306 mile run across Death Valley on August 22nd in order to raise one million dollars for clean water charity!  The temperatures in Death Valley that time of year can reach a high of up to 135 degrees Fahrenheit! Nike had to make a special shoe for him, so the soles of his shoes will not melt onto the asphalt!

So is there a Spartan Race future for Jason?  I asked him if he would ever consider participating in the Death Race, or any other Spartan Race.  He responded by saying, “As long as I can raise money for the charities I support!”  Be on the lookout Spartans, the 2012 season could get even more interesting!

I asked Jason for some final words of encouragement for our Spartans, seeing as how he has pushed through so much adversity.  “I’m a mental athlete” he stated, “There is no limit in life.”

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