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Kona resident Jason Lester completes 2,633-mile trek across Australia

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Jason Lester is a man who gets to where he is going no matter how far the journey is. The renowned Kona endurance athlete has traveled all over the world, running across several countries including the United States and China.

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Jason Lester is a man who gets to where he is going no matter how far the journey is. The renowned Kona endurance athlete has traveled all over the world, running across several countries including the United States and China.

His most recent adventure, achievement, athletic endeavor, flight of insanity, or what ever people want to call it, was accomplished on Aug. 11 when Lester spent 135 days crossing Australia.

Lester left from Perth in Western Australia on March 11 and he would arrive 2,633 miles later at Batemans Bay in New South Wales. He spent 118 days on the move, completing anywhere from 26 to 48 miles per day. Rain caused several days of delay during the latter half of the trip.

Unlike his previous runs across the U.S. and the Great Wall of China, the trip across Australia was an impulse decision, coming a month before another trip was planned.

“When I crossed the U.S. I actually had the fourth fastest time and I wanted to go after the world record,” Lester said. “It was crazy. About a month before I was going to go I went to Australia and decided that I wanted to run around the world.”

Lester started his Trans Australia Run with a one-man support crew. Most runners doing long runs such as this usually have crews up to four or six people, who provide all types of support and carry the food and supplies. Some even drive RV’s so that the runner can rest at anytime on the journey.

On his previous runs, Lester had used support crews. However, about 500 miles into his trek across Australia, he decided to to run self-supported.

“About 400 miles in I ran across two people who were cross country skiing across Australia and they were pulling a cart behind them with all their supplies,” Lester said. “It was about this time that I started thinking that I could do this on my own. I asked what they were going to do with the cart and they said they were just going to throw it away because it was too expensive to fly back.”

Lester asked if he could have the cart when the two cross country skiers finished and they agreed. They shipped the cart to Lester from their finish point and the post office delivered it for free once they found out what he was doing.

Challenges ahead

Now armed with a cart, Lester pulled away from his crew and went out on his own, but the journey would not be easy, especially when he reached the Nullarbor — a notoriously barren dessert that stretches for nearly 750 miles. This land provided a mental challenge that pushed Lester to the limit.

“It is very desolate, gets extremely hot, and there are very few places to stop and get food, water and find a place to sleep,” Lester said. “The biggest challenge was waking up every morning and looking down the same road. There were no turns or hills, just desert with thousands of kangaroos, camels and wild dogs. It was brutal.”

Lester spent over three weeks in the Nullarbor, and while the wildlife would seem to provide a welcomed distraction, it was almost too much so.

“There was one specific day I remember counting 86 dead kangaroos, some of which I would have to run around or jump over so that I could avoid the cars on the road,” Lester said. “It looked like a murder scene. The smell was so bad that I had to turn my head when I was running by.”

During this time in the Nullarbar, Lester found some inspiration when he needed it most in the form of Peter Tripovich, a retired farmer who was completing a walk around Australia that he started about a decade ago but could not finish at the time.

Tripovich had set out to walk around the country in 2005 and he was about 4,350 miles away from completing his trek when his wife fell ill. After 6,835 miles and 13 months of walking, he decided to stop and head home to be with his wife.

Now, Tripovich was back on the road again, looking to complete what he had started.

“As I would reach each gas station, which they called road houses, people kept asking me if I had met Peter. It built to a point where I was really looking forward to meeting this guy,” Lester said. “I would get closer each day and I finally caught up with him. I went to his room and out came this 90-year-old man. He had such an inspirational story and it was what I needed to keep moving forward. He was walking 35 kilometers (22 miles) a day and last I heard he was 200 kilometers (124 miles) away from being finished with his trek.”

Mountains await

Eventually Lester would make his way through the dessert. He had one last task ahead of him and that was the mountains, which added an extra challenge with the cart that held up to 50-pounds of supplies at one time.

“Going into the last 500 miles, when I had to climb into the mountains. That is when I really got tested,” Lester said.

During his 2,663 mile trip, Lester would sleep whereever he could find it. In fact the amount of miles he ran each day often depended on the distance to the next town.

“I slept in pubs, hotels from the 1800s, garages and on farms,” Lester said. “It was an amazing experience. The people at these places all wanted to know my story but really I was more interested in their stories.”

Eventually, Lester did reach the end of his journey when he arrived in Batemans Bay, about 170 miles south of Sydney.

“It was pretty epic and much harder than I anticipated, but it worked out well,” Lester said. “ It was a great country and the people were very hospitable.”

After completing his the long trek , Lester finally arrived back in Kona last Saturday, where he plans on taking a much needed mental break before his next big adventure.

“I am pretty healthy physically and mentally I will come back around after a little rest,” Lester said. “The biggest thing right now is re-adapting to civilization. When you run through nowhere for so long you kind of get detached from society. Everything feels new to me right now, even having normal conversations feels new.”

Physically, Lester is ready to get back into a routine of triathlon training. He is really looking forward to getting back on the bike again, mostly because it is not running. As for his next adventure, Lester wants to run around the world and the next logical step is Europe, which he hopes to start within the next two years.

“Everything is based on sponsorships and I will need to go over and drive the route and meet with my contacts on the best way to go about the run,” Lester said. “A global run is my inspiration and I am honored to have the opportunity.”

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For now, Lester plans on spending some time in Hawaii, competing in local competitions such as the EpicMan (a non-stop triple Ironman), the Epic100 (a run from Kailua Pier to the top of Mauna Kea) and the Epic5 (five Iron-distance triathlons on five Hawaiian islands).

Lester runs for his charity, the Never Stop Foundation, which is dedicated to using athletics as a tool to encourage all youth to have the chance to achieve their full potential. 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.