Categorized | Featured, Multi-sport, Sports

Epic: Lester, Roll finish 5 Ironmans on 5 islands

Jason Lester and Rich Roll relax after completing five Ironman-distance triathlons on five islands in seven days. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Contributing Editor

Jason Lester and Richard Roll will probably sleep in Wednesday. And they certainly deserve it.

Late Tuesday, the triathletes completed their fifth Ironman distance triathlon in seven days, crossing the legendary world championship finish line in Kona at 11:29 p.m. They swam 12 miles, biked 560 miles and ran 131 miles.

Rich Roll gives Jason Lester a hug at Kailua Pier after they completed the final marathon. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

The pair set off on Epic5, billed as an unprecedented athletic and spiritual odyssey, May 5 on Kauai. They then completed triathlons on Oahu, Molokai and Maui.

Although they had hoped to do five triathlons on five islands in five days, the bicycle gods were not kind. Between busted derailers, lost seat clamps and a delay in shipping the bikes from island to island, the journey took a full seven days.

That glitch, however, doesn’t diminish their achievement.

“We’ve just done something nobody else has ever done,” Roll said.

“Where’s the food?” Lester said.

Kona resident Lester, 36, and Los Angeles resident Roll, 43, set out on the adventure to raise funds for Lester’s Never Stop Foundation, but ended up embarking on the trip of a lifetime.

“Epic,” Lester said. ” It was a crazy journey. There were so many ups and downs. There were moments when we didn’t think we could go on. I think we tried to quit about 1,000 times. The human body truly is an amazing thing.”

Lester is used to overcoming the challenges and obstacles life has thrown him. An All-Star youth athlete, Lester was 12 years old when he was hit by a car. He recovered from 21 broken bones and a collapsed lung, but lost the use of his right arm.

He continued to play sports through high school and college, eventually focusing on running and biathlon. By 2008, he was competing in triathlon at the highest levels – Ironman World Championship and Ultraman Hawaii World Championship.

In July 2009, Jason broke ground by becoming the first male triathlete to win an ESPY Award.

Roll is father to four children, an entertainment lawyer, writer and former member of the Stanford University Men’s Swimming Team. He also has twice completed the Ultraman World Championship.

“Jason has been working on Epic5 for several years. When he asked me to join him, I just couldn’t say ‘no,'” Roll said. “It was an honor and pleasure, the experience of a lifetime.”

Roll said the moments that stand out as highlights and lowlights are the same.

“When you are faced with insurmountable pain, doubt and thinking it was time to give up, we were able to push through,” Roll said. “Those are the lowlights, but they are also the highlights when you get through them. We had obstacles, but we also had great blessings, too.”

The official Ironman triathlon finish line. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Lester and Roll gave credit to their crew chief, Rebecca Morgan. The Kauai resident handled the travel plans and logistics of getting two athletes, nine bags, two bicycles and any number of spare tires from place to place.

“She knew where absolutely everything was at every moment,” Roll said. “She was amazing.”

“She got up before us and stayed up longer than us every day,” Lester said. “She held it all together.”

Both athletes said they appreciated the support from people on each of the islands. On Molokai, a 7-year-old joined them for five miles on the run; on Kauai, a police detective paddled alongside during the swim; and on Oahu, members of a running club ran the entire marathon with them.

“That was a highlight, connecting with all the people on each island,” Roll said.

The athletes were raising funds for the Never Stop Foundation, which is dedicated to using athletics as a tool to encourage youth to achieve their full potential.

Founded by Lester in 2007, the foundation uses athletics to teach young participants how to think creatively about their lives – then gives them the practical skills to turn their dreams into reality. The goal is to help those in their formative years find their own true voice, help them build their confidence, improve their communication skills and learn the values of discipline, trust, compassion, self-reliance, and respect.

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