Today’s guest is a guy I relate to on so many levels. Like a big Venn diagram of overlapping circles — ultra-endurance multi-sport athlete, dad, husband, Ultraman competitor and EPIC5 finisher.
Today’s guest is unique in that he is the only guy I have ever had on the show who, like me, has competed in both the Ultraman World Championships and EPIC5 (not that there are very many of us – I think only a few).
Today’s guest is also unique for his strong sense of faith, directed purpose and commitment to giving back in service to others the blessings bestowed upon him.
Today’s guest is Christian Isakson.
Christian and I first connected online several years ago on the eve of his 2011 attempt on EPIC5 (one year after I completed that challenge). Christian absolutely rocked it, completing the distance within the five day period I strived for, yet fell short. In the wake of that effort, I vividly recall several conversations in which I encouraged him to ply his trade at Ultraman. Ironically, Christian was unsure — at the time not yet wholly confident in his abilities despite the potential I clearly saw in him. Yet he obliged. To be clear, not because of me – I just gave him a nudge. And at this past year’s World Championship in Hawaii, he proved his mettle and then some. His race was far from perfect, but Christian more than distinguished himself as a future contender for the top podium spot, putting his imprimatur on the race with a stunning Day 2 bike effort that had him leading the field for the majority of the brutal 170-mile day.
Since our first Facebook exchange, Christian and I have been e-mail pen pals and phone buddies — corresponding consistently over the years about everything from balancing parenting & marriage to nutrition, training strategies, racing, the role of faith and most importantly service — how best to give this whole ultra-endurance experience greater meaning for others beyond mere race results.
And yet Christian and I had never actually met in person. But no matter — from our first conversation we have been close; meeting in person existing as nothing more than a formality. All that changed a few weeks ago when Christian came down to Los Angeles for a short overnight visit with me and my family. The hug he gave me when I picked him up at the airport just made our brotherhood official.
Today we sit down and sift through it all – the pain, passion, love and faith that fuels and drives him. The unique push-pull allure of ultra-distance racing. And how he balances this brutally demanding lifestyle to maintain a healthy and happy marriage, great relationship with his kids, and a rewarding career as a paramedic / firefighter.
But what makes Christian really tick is his faith. His fidelity to his church. And how service plays into his success equation – from his endeavors with various church organizations to his involvement with Chris Lieto’s non-profit More Than Sport and Ameena Project – an NGO which took him to Kenya recently to provide much needed medical care to underprivileged in urgent need.
I can attest to the fact that Christian returned from Kenya a changed man. A better, more focused man with a keener sense of priorities. His short documentary on the experience tells the tale:
In all honesty, it’s rare that I get an opportunity to sit down with a guy with whom I share so many things in common. As a result, this conversation is long. Really long. 3 hours long. So I decided to try something new. For the first time in the brief history of the RRP, I’m splitting this episode up into two parts to be released in the same week. Part 2 will go up later this week on Thursday, May 8.
There are so many fascinating aspects to Christian’s story. I don’t want to spoil it, so you will just have to listen.
But I will say this: Christian is a solid guy. One of the good guys. The guy you root for and really want to see succeed. Because he shoots straight and walks his talk. Shows up when he says he’s going to show up and always gives 110% without any expectation of what he might receive in return. A guy with a really strong moral compass and sense of direction. One of those guys whose handshake means more than any signed contract. Old School. Almost as if he comes from an older generation when things like that actually meant something.
My point is this: it is truly rare to find a friend of such solid stock, sturdy moral fiber and unperturbedly strong sense of who he is. Christian is one of those guys.
It’s my honor to know this man. To be his friend. And to share this conversation with you today.
I sincerely hope you enjoy it.
PS – I just e-mailed Christian to let him know the interview went live. He reminded me of the auspiciousness of this date of publication — May 5 is the day we both took the first step on our respective EPIC5 journeys. In all honesty it never occurred to me until he mentioned it. Crazy how the Universe works sometimes. But the longer I walk this path the more weird stuff like this just seems to happen.
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