Climber attempts world record to end childhood obesity

Colin O'Brady Seven Summits challenge against childhood obesity

O’Brady after a recent hike in Oregon. As he prepares for a world record, O’Brady says he hopes to inspire a younger generation of athletes. Photo: Courtesy of Colin O’Brady

Colin O’Brady spent his time over the holidays a little different than most.

Instead of say, downing egg nog with loved ones and ringing in the New Year with a flute of champagne or two, O’Brady spent his New Year traveling to the South Pole, preparing to spend eight hours each day dragging a 100-pound sled across Antarctica.

When he’s done with that, he will climb Mount Vinson (16,050 feet) — the tallest peak in Antarctica — before flying off to South America to repeat the climbing process.

When all is said and done, if O’Brady is successful, he will have spent just under six months climbing the tallest mountains on each continent and reaching the South and North Pole, breaking the world record as the fastest person to ever accomplish what is known as the Explorer’s Grand Slam.

And he’s doing it all in an attempt to raise $1 million to help end childhood obesity.

“Looking back on my childhood I realize now how fortunate I was to have healthy influences in my life,” O’Brady told GrindTV. “The foundation for my success in school, as an athlete and as an adult was a result of my parents focus on health food and fitness.”

And to date, those successes he makes reference to have been nothing short of spectacular.

A professional triathlete for the past six years, O’Brady has made a career out of defying convention. He won the first triathlon he ever entered, the 2009 Chicago Triathlon, which at the time had the largest participation of any triathlon in the country, ultimately launching his professional career.

In the time since, he has represented the United States in over 25 countries on six continents in international competition.

“It’s funny,” said O’Brady. “I had never done a triathlon before that race. I had been a swimmer in college, but I never cycled or ran at any level. My goal going in was just to complete the race.”

Now, as he attempts a world record (which you can follow through his nonprofit organization Beyond 7/2), O’Brady faces a new set of challenges he has yet to experience in his athletic career.

Low oxygen levels, subzero temperatures and violent storms are just some of the obstacles that stand between him accomplishing his goal, but O’Brady says the biggest struggle for him will be mental.

“I think the real challenge lies in the cumulative fatigue that will build up going from mountain to mountain so quickly,” said O’Brady. “After finishing an expedition, most people head home to rest and recover.

“My down time between mountains will be long travel days as I transit from peak to peak across the globe as quickly as possible. Come May, when I’ll be attempting Everest, I’ll have already been going for four months straight before even starting up the world’s highest mountain.”

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Still, O’Brady is confident in his abilities to overcome adversity, and with good reason: The aforementioned victory at the 2009 Chicago Triathlon came after a 2008 injury in Thailand, burned 25 percent of O’Brady’s body and resulted in doctors telling him he may never walk again.

“The accident happened in January 2008,” O’Brady said. “It was a long road to recovery. After spending more than a month in various Thai hospitals being told I might never walk again normally, I was determined to beat the odds.

“My mother sat by my bedside in Thailand and in an effort to keep my mind occupied, she asked me, ‘What do you want to do when you get out of here?’ As an active person my whole life, I couldn’t imagine not being able to use my legs so I set a goal that day. I decided I wanted to complete a triathlon,” said O’Brady.

Ultimately, what matters most to O’Brady is setting up future generations to find the same athletic success he has enjoyed. Regardless of whether or not he is able to break the world record, O’Brady says he just wants to cause a positive change in the youth.

“Not all kids have great role models for a healthy lifestyle like I had,” said O’Brady. “My hope is to build an inspirational campaign with this world record attempt, to raise awareness and funds to inspire active, healthy kids so they can lead happier, more successful lives.”

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