"Through social media outreach, articles, and many personal meet and greets at race expos and hospitals over the past five years, I have a captive audience of people cheering for me, the guy who is holding their torch. I'm the person that runs for them because they can't. Or maybe they can, but they are taking it slow and listening to their body, which is exactly what I preach. The 2020 Triple Crown of 200s is the project that I am most looking forward to, as I think it will be able to be turned into an amazing film that brings one into my headspace during such an epic, challenging adventure while simultaneously giving arthritis patients, ultra runners and average Joes the opportunity to get involved."
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Hi, my name is Helgi Olafson. I have a history of involvement in the arthritis communities throughout the
world, portrayed as a success story when regarded using an “exercise as medicine” approach to dealing with the
complications of my own autoimmune arthritis called Ankylosing Spondylitis.
Those who have come to know me in the ultra running world would probably say that I am suited for the
gnarliest of adventures that many others would not even fathom. I guess its true. I don't know, but I'm ready to
take it to the next level.
I like to be one with the elements and, due to my struggles and wins within my own battle with AS, I
have built the mental fortitude to put myself through some next level challenges, where the only way out is
forward. In the 200 scene, I have become a figure of sorts, being very transparent about my struggles to get
those elusive buckles. Many have seen my grit first hand since the 2017 Moab 240 and even more so in the
crazy runventures that myself and my compadres come up with.
My point here is that I am a middle-of-the-pack-er and every other
middle-of-the-pack-er can and do relate to guys like me. None of us think we know it all and we are open to the
advice and opinions of those around us fighting the same or similar battles. It's all about hanging out and
enjoying the company of your trail buddies. Must of us don't care about winning. We care about doing our best
to finish the adventures we set out to do. Furthermore, we are always trying to find the best brands that work for
us to aide us in making it to the finish line or end point.
My love for endurance sports started back in 2012, when I was living and working as a chef in Hawaii.
For exercise, I joined a long distance outrigger canoe team called Waikoloa Canoe Club. This was a blast! One
of my team members mentioned that he had a friend who needed a runner for the upcoming Olympic distance
triathlon called Lavaman Waikoloa. I hadn't run much for a few years and never really considered myself a
runner, but I quickly accepted the offer. I wanted people to know that
it was possible to push the physical and mental boundaries set forth by what little was known about ankylosing
spondylitis. My mantra became pushing my limits.
Fast forward to 2015. I had completed two iron distance triathlons, five marathons, ten or so half iron
distance triathlons, ten or so Olympic distance triathlons, ten or so half marathons, and many 10km and 5 km
races. I was considered by my peers as an endurance athlete and I was regularly finishing in the top 5th percentile
in my age group in many of these events. I put in the hard work and it was showing in my results.
Not only was I a competitive endurance athlete, despite my debilitating condition, but I was also making
a difference in the lives of people across the world with and without arthritis. My story has been featured in
more than ten local newspapers and newscasts where I raced, as well as through many online health publications
and even as the first episode of This AS Life Live, alongside world famous musician Dan Reynolds from
Imagine Dragons. I had landed speaking engagements in the United Kingdom alongside a 1,000 mile bike ride
across the country, as well as a few places in Canada and the US. I had equipment and nutrition sponsors to help
aid my efforts in raising awareness. It seemed that life was good and my mission was accomplished, but it really
However, this life of racing to raise awareness was taking its toll on me and I couldn't afford the cost, stress, and
negligence of my own life's future. I had a full time job and it seemed that I now had two. All of my sponsors
wanted too much in return and it was not in line with the original mission to inspire through fitness. It's always
about the numbers with them. Not with me. So what did I do? I did what any self-respecting human being
would do. I turned away from road and tri, and moved to trail. I didn't need sponsors to inspire. So I cut ties,
respectfully, of course. I already built the foundation to inspire. I was quite happy to make the transition and
even happier to be green again. A blank canvas ready to be wooed into a new passion for the easy going lifestyle
that is Trail and Ultra Running.
Through social media outreach, articles, and many personal meet and greets at race expos and hospitals
over the past five years, I have a captive audience of people cheering for me, the guy who is holding their torch.
I'm the person that runs for them because they can't. Or maybe they can, but they are taking it slow and listening
to their body, which is exactly what I preach. Do what works for you, but do something. Don't just sit there and
drown in your sorrows while waiting for a magic pill. It NEVER works. What does work is taking baby steps
while listening to your body. I am lucky that I was diagnosed at age 19 with this horrible disease because it gave
me a leg to stand on. My doctor gave me options. He assured me that my life wasn't over. It had only just
begun. I was bound and determined to take these lemons that I was dealt and turn them into the sweetest
lemonade the world had ever tasted. I focused on living an active lifestyle while maintaining a positive attitude,
and never stopping.
Before I go into the plans for the rest of 2019 and 2020, I'd like to provide links to some of my recent
and past awareness works. Please check these out for a better idea of my outreach work over the past few years.
Then scroll down ...
Helgi Olafson on the 2018 Triple Crown of 200s (Race Reports)
This AS Life Live with Dan Reynolds
Helgi – Push my Limits While I can Push Them – Tahoe 200 (By: Bachar Khattar)
Helgi Olafson - Kogalla Quote from Tahoe 200
The Faces of Ankylosing Spondylitis: Face 0461: Helgi Olafson
Triathlete with Ankylosing Spondylitis Arthritis-Health.com
Meet Triathlete and Arthritis Activist Helgi Olafson
Helgi Olafson Ankylosing Spondylitis Athlete
Standing Tall: Helgi Olafson's Life with Ankylosing Spondylitis
Explore Big Sky: Ultrarunner with Arthritis Condition Pushes Bounds of Possibility
Ultra Running Magazine Race Results 2015-Present
Ankylosing Spondylitis Triathlete Helgi Olafson Inspires Pine View Students (SNN Channel 6)
Helgi Olafson Embarking on a 9 Week Racing/Awareness Journey for AS
Ankylosing Spondylitis Athlete to Race in the Kelowna Apple Triathlon
Ironman Canada 2013: Ankylosing Spondylitis Athlete Shines
Amatuer Athlete to Give Talk on Degenerative Condition at Basingstoke Hospital
Visiting Ironman Athletes Give Back to Pemberton
Stretching 101 with Ankylosing Spondylitis Athlete Helgi Olafson
Triathlon As Medicine – Kelowna Daily Courier
Former Winnipegger Won't Let Chronic Illness Slow Him Down
The 2020 Triple Crown of 200s is the project that I am most looking forward to, as I think it will be able
to be turned into an amazing film that brings one into my headspace during such an epic, challenging adventure.
The 2020 Triple Crown Project will benefit the Spondylitis Association of America. It will be a unique event that gives arthritis patients, ultra runners and average
Joes the opportunity to get involved. By using my GPS locating device and adhering to a schedule, I'd like to
posture this as a supported event. I need two full time team members, who will both play a role in setting up my
crew access points every day and filming/photographing the carnage. The route is mostly on trail. Some of the
checkpoints that are easily accessible by road would not only represent meeting locations for supporters to cheer
me on, but also act as locations for other runners to help pace me for part of a section or even for a full day, or
even multiple days.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this lengthy “get to know me letter.”
Helgi Spencer Olafson
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