Survival of the Fittest

Famed triathlete comes to Molokai.

Jason Lester is always seeking bigger and better athletic challenges. That drive has led him to plan the EPIC5 Challenge – five Ironman events in five days on five Hawaiian Islands. The triathlete has been planning the course for years. Starting on Kauai, the event will come to Molokai on its third day, this Friday, May 7.

On each island, Lester and his training partner, Richard Roll, will swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26 miles. The event, described as “an unprecedented athletic and spiritual odyssey” is the first of its kind. The course will cover Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Maui and Hawaii Island in that order, beginning on May 5.

Molokai will be the toughest course of all the islands, according to Lester, because of the steep hills and trade winds. The tentative event course will begin with the 2.4 mile swim off Papohaku Beach, followed by the bicycle ride from the top of Kaluakoi Road to Maunaloa. Then they will bike east to Pu`u O Hoku Ranch, then back to Maunaloa and ending near town to ditch their bikes after 112 miles. They will then run east and back for 26 miles, finally finishing the event at Hotel Molokai. Lester visited Molokai last week to scope out the course and touch base with Molokai residents who will act as their crew.

Lester, a Kona resident, said he encourages experienced cyclists and runners to come join him and Roll during the Molokai event. Because the pair will be active for 14-15 hours per day for five consecutive days, Lester said their pace will be moderate. He explained it’s not a race – it’s a challenge. He also encourages families to come cheer them on.

The EPIC5 Challenge is an effort to raise money for the Never Stop Foundation, whose mission is to use athletics as a tool to encourage youth to have the chance to achieve their full potential.

What motivates Lester to complete these feats of athletic endurance? “I kept hearing, ‘you’ve inspired me,’” he said. “You realize that that’s your purpose in life – maybe not to be the best, but to inspire.”

Lester, a physically challenged athlete, lost the use of his right arm in a car accident when he was young. But that never stopped him from pursuing athletic excellence, and he said he began competing in biathlons and marathons when he was 15–years-old. Since then, he has placed in the top finishers of Ironman and triathlelon events around the world. Lester is also an “ultraman,” a competitor in events that consist of two Ironmans back to back. He became the first challenged athlete to ever complete an ultraman event in 2008.

“I don’t think about times or distance,” Lester explained. “I’m thinking about healing people” through inspiring them.

Lester became the first male triathlete to win an ESPY Best Male Athlete with a Disability last year, an annual award put on by the television sports network ESPN. He just finished writing a book, “Running on Faith,” which will come out in August.

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