Robert Hamilton Owens is a man of many hats. He’s been and done a lot – mountain climbing, radio and TV personality, keynote speaker, minister, Ironman, philanthropist, triathlete, Special Ops Pararescueman, and father of five – to name a few. But of all the pursuits he’s undertaken, there’s one title that best describes this literal force of nature: Robert is The Fittest and Mentally Toughest 66-Year-Old in the World. Period.
Robert was born and raised in Orange County, California without ever having met his parents. Adopted by a California judge, Robert was raised as a special-needs child who was unable to play kickball with his classmate due to the corrective shoes he was required to wear through sixth grade.
In high school, Robert trained under legendary US Olympic swim coach Jon Urbanchek in Anaheim, and later raced outrigger canoes from Long Beach to Catalina with the Dana Point Outrigger Club on his off time from lifeguarding in San Clemente.
In 1973, he entered the U.S. Air Force Special Operations School with a class of 157 men to train as a Pararescueman, the Air Force equivalent of a Navy SEAL. Of those 157, only seven made the through and graduated, one of which was Robert, who was designated Team Leader.
As an Air Force Pararescueman, Robert was routinely called upon to risk his life to rescue those in perilous situations, such as climbers stranded on Denali, the highest mountain in North America. As a climber himself, Robert later attempted a winter ascent up the mountain, making it nearly three quarters of the way up before being blown off by 80-mile-per-hour, -100-degree winds. But to his credit, and to Robert’s understanding to this day, no one has ever made it to the top in those conditions. After Robert left the military, he began smuggling literature into the old Soviet Union, and smuggling official documents back out. The documents were violations of the Helsinki Peace Accords under the Carter administration
In total, Robert has completed 12 Ironman Triathlons – from Florida to Oahu to South Africa – and is one of the few Ironmen to complete both Honolulu in 1980 as well as Kona in 2003. “My goal is to be the longest active Ironman in the world,” he says. The 140.6-mile Ironman (2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and 26.3-mile run, all done without a break) is among the shorter competitions Robert’s put himself through. At age 65 he embarked on the 238 mile “300 of Sparta Endurance Race,” an eight-day endurance race in Greece to help raise over $315,000 for the families of fallen Navy SEAL contractors who died at Benghazi. A mere four days before his 66th birthday, Robert took on the SEALFIT’s Kokoro 50-Hour Challenge, originally created to train Special Operations Candidates. He was the oldest of the group by 25 years to finish, and at the same time became the oldest to ever complete the challenge, for which he was awarded the “Most Advanced Age Ever Award” by SEALFIT. And then without any training, he took on the Ironman Mexico – his 12th Ironman. And in January, 2018, Robert took on and completed “The World Marathon Challenge – 7 Marathons 7 Continents 7 Days.”
But for Robert, a father of five, none of this is done for self-aggrandizement. While he loves the challenge, he derives his greatest pleasure from helping others – motivating, educating, and inspiring them. He does it for one, such as helping a ready-to-quit Ironman competitor and cancer survivor to continue and finish the race, and he does it for many.
For more than 25 years, Robert has been speaking before audiences as large as 50,000, from San Diego to Moscow on motivational and leadership topics. His past clients include the Navy SEALs, New York Jets, The Baltimore Ravens, The Philadelphia Eagles, South African Parliament, the Vietnamese Department of Foreign Affairs, and the Philippines Joint Chiefs of Staff. He’s been invited to address the South African Parliament, and has made five trips teaching officials in the Vietnamese Department of Foreign Affairs. During 22 of those years, he hosted the regional Fox network television program “Leadership for Changing Times” in Reno, Nevada where, by two separate Governor’s appointments, he also served for eight years on the Nevada State Judicial Ethics Committee.
While it takes extraordinary physical condition to be in the Air Force Special Ops or to best the many Ironmans he’s bested, Robert will readily affirm that success in these physical endeavors – and in life in general – is as much a matter of will and mental attitude as it is physical conditioning. When most have long since slowed as they approach their golden years, The Fittest and Mentally Toughest 66-Year-Old in the World continues to routinely take on unprecedented challenges, and to help others see what can be achieved in their own lives
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