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Ultraman competitor Chris Isakson is back from a near-fatal bike crash and ready to serve in Kenya.



COURTESY PHOTO: JEREMY FRECHETTE - Awaiting the start of last years Ultraman World Championship on the Big Island of Hawaii, Chris Isakson checks his gear.Christian Isakson is an endurance athlete. He’s also spent the last decade and a half working as a paramedic and firefighter for the Hillsboro Fire Department. But it’s what he does at home and abroad that makes him a proud husband, father and human being working on behalf of causes bigger than himself.

“I was sitting in a church service listening to a Romanian pastor speak to the wants and needs of an area he was from,” Isakson said. “They had limited water and other basic services, so I decided I wanted to come up with a way to earn money to help them and people like them. So I decided to run a marathon.”

Isakson wasn’t always an endurance athlete. Growing up in Detroit, Mich., he played baseball and other sports. But after four years in the Army, marriage to his wife Rhonda and a move to Portland, Ore., he began pushing himself to the limit in an effort to push others beyond the limits life had presented them.

“I raised $5,000 running that first marathon, so I did it again — and again,” said Isakson. “I was inspired by helping people.”

That first marathon led to triathlons, the triathlons led to the EPIC5 Challenge (Which consists of five ironman triathlons, in five consecutive days, on five different Hawaiian islands), which in turn led to the Ultraman: a 6.2-mile swim, a 261.4-mile cross country bike ride and a 52.4-mile run, all over a three-day period.

“It’s kind of crazy if you think about it,” Chris said. “But it helps when you have something bigger than yourself to compete for. After years of struggling to get into the Ironman World Championships, I kind of figured out the Ultraman was my event and I really wanted to win the world championship.”

Isakson was on his way.


COURTESY PHOTO: JEREMY FRECHETTE - Hillsboros Chris Isakson competes in the bicycle stage of an Ultraman event.

‘I think this is it’

After a second place finish at the U.S. qualifier in Florida, Isakson, 42, embarked on his quest for a world title in Hawaii. But while in the midst of a successful first day, a bicycle crash left him lying on the edge of a 200-foot cliff with a broken clavicle and seven broken ribs. His hopes of a world championship were over, and he spent the next three days in a local hospital before being cleared to fly home to Portland.

On the flight home his left lung collapsed, leaving him thinking of what might have been as well as what might never be.

“I thought I was done,” Chris said. “I told my wife, ‘I think this is it.”

It wouldn’t be “it,” but the accident resulted in 2.5 liters of blood being drained from Isakson’s chest and months of rehab, which he just recently completed.

“It was hard,” he said. “It was the pinnacle of what I’d worked for. I had my family and friends there working on my crew. I thought I was going to win.”

Though he didn’t win that title, his faith remains strong.

“Religion is a big thing for me,” said Isakson. “It, along with my family, are the most important things in my life.”

Chris and wife Rhonda have been married for 24 years, and have a daughter Evelyn, 21, and son Ian, 15. They met in the seventh-grade — and for Chris at least, it was love at first sight.

“I saw her and I was gone,” he said. “We’ve known each other for 30 years and I can’t imagine living a second without her.”


Kenyan mission

His family shares his passion for helping others, which is why they’re joining him on his second trip to Kenya as part of the Ameena Project, a U.S.-based, 100 percent volunteer-run organization with the mission of coming alongside talented and passionate individuals committed to working with the most vulnerable children within their own communities.

Isakson has dedicated time in other countries such as Haiti, but has a special place in his heart for the Ameena Project and the people of Kenya.

He’ll be hosting a medical clinic in a destitute area of the African nation, evaluating and treating 140 kids and adults. He provides medical care to the ones he can personally help — and helps transport those he cannot to a hospital in Nairobi.

“Last time I was there I helped save a girl’s foot that was horribly infected,” said Isakson. “I also discovered a heart defect in a small child, and was able to get him the help he needed.”

Rhonda Isakson, a massage therapist, spent six years as a teacher and speaks three languages. She’ll be doing her part in Kenya, working with a small school and lending a hand where she can.

“I, and we, do all these things because we’re compelled to help,” Isakson said. “It’s blown my mind how much need there is.”

Isakson’s Ultraman career isn’t over. Now, nearly fully recovered from his near-fatal injury last year, he hopes to again make a run at an Ultraman world championship. But while inspired by his competitive nature, it’s his desire to help others that truly fuels him.

“I just want to help, man,” he quietly said. “I just love to help.”

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